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Football coach Sid Gillman

October 11, 2008 | 10:10 am

Photograph by Ken Dare / Los Angeles Times

Chargers Coach Sid Gillman with Jack Kemp in a photo published Nov. 7, 1961
By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

His team on the way to face the defending NFL champion Detroit Lions, Sid Gillman was rewarded with a new contract to continue coaching the Rams. He must have felt on top of the world, working for a franchise on the move.

The Rams, after all, had hired Gillman in 1955 and he led them to that season's NFL championship game, where they lost to the Cleveland Browns. His 1958 Rams were high-powered and talented and headed for an 8-4 finish. And he obviously had the support of the Rams' young general manager, Pete Rozelle.

Funny how things worked out.


Los Angeles Times file photograph

Rams coach Sid Gillman with Mrs. Paul Schwegler, left, and Mrs. Lloyd Frederick in a publicity shot for the Rams-Redskins Times charity football game, Aug. 14, 1957.

The Rams suffered through a 2-10 season in 1959 and in 1960 Rozelle became the surprise choice as NFL commissioner. By 1960, Gillman was still in L.A. but coaching the AFL's Chargers in their first and only season in the Coliseum.

Gillman became an institution in San Diego, coaching the Chargers until 1971. He won an AFL title with the Chargers in 1963 and is remembered for his sophisticated approach to offensive football.

Photograph by Ben Olender and Larry Sharkey
Los Angeles Times
Rams coach Sid Gillman with a "triple threat punch" of Jon Arnett, Ollie Matson and Tom Wilson, July 25, 1959.
"He took football to another level, the technical aspects of it," Hall of Fame Coach Bill Walsh was quoted by The Times' Sam Farmer in Gillman's 2003 obituary. "He picked up the reins as being the top offensive mind in all of football. Sid was brilliant, a visionary."

Walsh was one of many coaches influenced by Gillman. There's a great old photo in Gillman's files in The Times library from his days as Los Angeles Chargers coach. His assistants pictured with him included Raiders owner Al Davis, former Steelers coach Chuck Noll and longtime Ram official Jack Faulkner.   

The list of coaches connected to Gillman goes on and on.

Davis told The Times: "Obviously, he exerted an influence on my life. The great ones, time never ends for them."

Gillman's time in Los Angeles was relatively short, but his influence was felt there too. Bob Oates, The Times' longtime NFL writer, put Gillman in perspective: "There was a November day in 1957 when a Ram-49er game packed in a record crowd of 102,368 at the Coliseum. That was Gillman's doing. His offense was so entertaining that the game sold out even though, that morning, the Rams stood dead last in their division. He won too, 37-24."