Legendary Coach Sid Gillman Dies at 91

General Published on : 1/3/2003

Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman passed away early Friday morning at his home in California. Gillman, who recently had been in poor health, was 91.

"We at the Pro Football Hall of Fame were saddened by the news of the passing of our friend and Hall of Fame member Sid Gillman," commented Executive Director John Bankert. "One of pro football’s most innovative coaches, Sid had a profound impact on the sport. His love and appreciation of the game was unparalleled. A true friend of the Hall of Fame he will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Gillman family."

Gillman, who coached the Rams, Chargers, and Oilers with great success, is widely regarded as one of the most innovative offensive geniuses the game has ever seen. He is the first coach ever to win division championships in both the American and National Football Leagues.

Gillman Bio:

Enshrined in 1983
(Ohio State)
1955-1959 Los Angeles Rams; 1960-1969, 1971 Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers; 1973-1974 Houston Oilers

Sidney Gillman. . .Innovative coach, dynamic administrator. . . Recognized as leading authority on passing theories, tactics. . .18-year pro record: 123-104-7. . .First to win divisional titles in both NFL, AFL. . . Won 1963 league, five division crowns in AFL's first six years. . .Major factor in developing AFL's image, impetus, respect. . .AFC Coach of the Year, 1974. . .Played in first College All-Star game, 1934. . .Born October 26, 1911, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. . .Died January 3, 2003 at age of 91.

After Bronko Nagurski flattened him in the first College All-Star game in 1934, Sid Gillman decided he might have a better future in coaching. It was a sound career decision. He began his coaching career, however, in an era that taught that running the ball was the surest way to victory. It was a philosophy with which he disagreed. "The big play comes with the pass," he would tell anyone who would take time to listen. "God bless those runners because they get you the first down, give you ball control and keep your defense off the field. But if you want to ring the cash register, you have to pass."

Sid GillmanSid went on to become the foremost authority on forward passing offense. He was the first coach to produce divisional champions in both the National and American Football Leagues.

Gillman's first pro coaching job came in 1955 when he became the Los Angeles Rams head coach. In his first year he led the team to a division crown. Five years later, when the AFL was founded, Gillman became the head coach and general manager of the Chargers, who played in Los Angeles in 1960 before settling in San Diego the next year.

For the full decade of the AFL (1960-1969), Sid was the lifeblood of the Chargers and a major catalyst to an entire league in its life-and-death struggle. His high-scoring Chargers won divisional crowns five of the league's first six seasons and the AFL title in 1963. Sid's coaching was important but his organizational genius may have had even more lasting impact. As one observer noted, "Sid gave the Chargers image, impetus and respect and, in so doing, forced an entire league to adopt his methods just to remain competitive."