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 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."
October 26, 1911
North (Minneapolis, Minn.)
January 3, 2003
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame:
January 29, 1983
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame:
July 30, 1983
Joe Madro, Long-time coaching associate
Other Members of Class of 1983: Bobby Bell
, Sonny Jurgensen
, Bobby Mitchell
, Paul Warfield