26 Oct 1911 1
03 Jan 2003 1

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Full Name:
Sidney Gillman 1
26 Oct 1911 1
03 Jan 2003 1
Last Residence: Los Angeles, CA 1
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Card Issued: Unknown Code (PE) 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-7522 1

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Sid Gillman, Innovator of Passing Strategy in Football, Dies at 91

Sid Gillman, the longtime professional and college football coach who was considered a master of the passing game, died yesterday morning in Los Angeles. He was 91.

"Sid Gillman was the father of modern-day passing," said Al Davis, the prominent pro football figure who served as Gillman's first offensive coach with the Chargers of the American Football League. "It had been thought of as vertical, the length of the field, but Sid also thought of it as horizontal. Sid used the width of the field."

Bill Walsh, the former San Francisco 49ers coach, said in a 2000 interview with The Associated Press that Gillman was "one of the great offensive minds in football history."

Gillman established his reputation while coaching the Chargers, first in Los Angeles in 1960 and then in San Diego from 1961 to 1971.

His coaching career, which covered six decades, began in 1934 at his alma mater, Ohio State University. By the time he quit coaching, in 1987, he was a member of the collegiate and professional football Halls of Fame.

Gillman said in 1981: "All I know is that when you look over at the coaches on the other sideline and all you see are guys who either coached with you or played for you, then you know it's time to get out."

But he would not be ready, until six more seasons had passed, to retire to his home next to the first tee on the La Costa Resort golf course near Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Gillman underwent surgery in August 2000 for an aortic aneurysm. He was working with a personal trainer doing weight training and stretching at his home when he passed out.

A native of Minneapolis and a rugged player at end, Gillman spurned the University of Minnesota to attend Ohio State even though the Golden Gophers were the foremost college team in the nation at the time.

He first became a head coach at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1944 and moved on to the University of Cincinnati in 1949. His 10 college teams won 79 games and lost only 18, which caught the attention of Dan Reeves, president of the National Football League's Los Angeles Rams, who hired Gillman.

His first Rams team, in 1955, lost the league championship game to the Cleveland Browns, and Gillman was never able to do any better with the Rams. After a 2-10 season with the Rams in 1959 he jumped to the new A.F.L. The Chargers lost to the Houston Oilers in the inaugural A.F.L. championship game.

His first Chargers quarterback was Jack Kemp, an apt student who quickly absorbed Gillman's complex passing offense. Later, his star players in San Diego included Lance Alworth, Paul Lowe, Keith Lincoln, John Hadl, Ron Mix and Gary Garrison. Alworth, a receiver, and Mix, a tackle, preceded Gillman in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In 11 seasons with the Chargers, Gillman was 86-53-6 in the regular season. In the first six seasons of the A.F.L., San Diego won five division titles and one league championship, in 1963. The Chargers' success and the response of their fans had made San Diego a big-league city.

Gillman was a head coach once more, in Houston, where the Oilers in 1973 and 1974 went from 1-13 to 7-7 and he was named American Football Conference coach of the year. The Oilers' owner, Bud Adams, fired him anyway, replacing him with Bum Phillips.

Gillman later served briefly on the staffs of the Dallas Cowboys, the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles of the N.F.L. as well as the the Los Angeles Express of the United States Football League. He was a consultant for the University of Pittsburgh in 1987.

He is survived by his wife, Esther, whom he married in 1935; four children; and eight grandchildren.

Gillman helped engineer West Coast offense

LOS ANGELES -- Sid Gillman, the Hall of Fame football coach who was one of the masterminds behind the West Coast offense used by several of the NFL's best teams, died early Jan. 3. He was 91.

Gillman died at home in his sleep, said his wife, Esther.


Gillman coached the Los Angeles Rams from 1955-59 and the Chargers in Los Angeles and San Diego from 1960-69 -- their first 10 years of existence -- and again in 1971. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and also was a member of the National Football Hall of Fame.


In 18 years as coach of the Rams, Chargers and Houston Oilers, Gillman had a 123-104-7 record. He also was one of the first coaches to analyze game film to prepare strategy for opponents.


"Personally, I'm devastated," said Al Davis, the Oakland Raiders' managing general partner. Davis coached the Raiders from 1963-65, when he and Gillman were AFL coaching rivals.


"It was my good fortune to know him for 50-60 years, be a part of his life," Davis said. "Obviously, he exerted an influence on my life. The great ones, time never ends for them. Immortality is real when it comes to those people. I am sad. We'll miss him greatly."


Gillman and his wife were married for 67 years.


"Last night was the first and only night that Sid was in a hospital bed," Mrs. Gillman said. "We brought a hospital bed up just yesterday, because we thought it would be a little more comfortable for him."


Mrs. Gillman said her husband died peacefully at 5:15 a.m.


"That was the most important thing, he had such a nice smile on his face," she said. "That was the best part. The whole time, he was never in pain.


"He was in his room with all the plaques and all the footballs and all the mementos from all the years. It was a wonderful room. And he was aware of that. He always went into his office, especially during football season."


The Gillmans moved to Century City, Calif., 18 months ago to be closer to family, Mrs. Gillman said. They had lived in Carlsbad, Calif. -- some 30 miles north of San Diego -- for many years before moving north.


The West Coast offense has been used by several successful teams over the years, including the Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams. The 49ers, quarterbacked by Joe Montana and Steve Young, used it to win five Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s. The Rams won the title three years ago.


It's similar to the passing offense Gillman used, one that spreads the field horizontally and vertically to open up passing lanes and give quarterbacks more options to throw the ball.

"He was way ahead of his time in organization, in the passing game, and offensive football," Davis told The Associated Press in an interview in January 2000. "In the '60s, the passing game was not yet really developed. At the advent of the AFL (in 1960), certainly the Chargers were the flagship for all teams to follow, all teams to emulate."


Gillman's reliance on game film was attributed in large part to the fact that his family operated movie theaters in Minneapolis. In his first coaching job, at Denison, Ohio University in 1935, he saw an advertisement for a 35-millimeter projector for $35.


"We can't afford that," Mrs. Gillman recalled in an interview three years ago. "He says, 'I have to have this.' That was the beginning. He would come home, we would put up a white sheet on the wall, Sid would show me these films."


The Gillman garage in Carlsbad was loaded with dozens of reels of film and videotapes, along with about 50 binders resembling an encyclopedia set chock full of football plays and philosophies. Gillman, 88 at that time, said he watched football tapes about two-to-three hours every other day.


"I'm still involved; I will be, as long as I keep getting movies from these coaches," he said at the time. "Every once in a while I ask myself, 'I'm not coaching, why do I do this?'"


He answered his own question by saying: "I'd hate to have something on the football field happen that I'm not aware of."


Gillman last worked as an assistant coach on Dick Vermeil's staff with the Philadelphia Eagles for three years. Vermeil said the Eagles would never had made it to the Super Bowl in 1980 had it not been for Gillman.


Mrs. Gillman said Vermeil, now coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, called Jan. 3 to pay his respects.


"He called every week, he was so dear to us," Mrs. Gillman said. "Yesterday he got the film of the Kansas City-Oakland game and he watched a few reels of it right there in that room."


The Chiefs-Raiders game was played in Oakland Dec. 28.


"That's what we looked forward to, watching football," Mrs. Gillman said. "We loved it. We were so looking forward to the playoffs.


"He was wonderful -- I mean really wonderful. The memories, we shared so much."


Gillman is also survived by four children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A funeral service was held Jan. 5 for family and close friends. Mrs. Gillman said a tribute will be held at a date to be determined.


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