Coach Sid Gillman can be credited as the “father of modern football”. Raised Jewish in the anti-Semitic neighborhoods of Minneapolis, Gillman played for Ohio State University from 1931 to 1933. After college, Gillman returned home to Minneapolis where his curiosity and interest in football would change the game forever.
In 1935, Gillman worked at a local movie theater. A true student of the game, Gillman “borrowed” the football segments from newsreels from the theater and played them on a small projector at home.
It was this study of film that assisted Gillman in transforming football from a rugby- type game to the pro-style passing game we see today. He believed teams should pass to set up the run (not the other way around) and, “if you cannot co-ordinate eye and arm to get the ball at its intended spot properly and on time, you are not a passer,” according to notes Gillman left for Coach Bill Mountjoy.
Gillman played one year of professional football for the 1936 Cleveland Rams then became an assistant coach at Denison University and Ohio State, before becoming head coach at Miami (Ohio) and University of Cincinnati. After ten years in the collegiate ranks, Gillman made the jump to professional coaching.
He compiled a 123-104-7 NFL head coaching record for the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, San Diego Chargers, and Houston Oilers. He only had one championship team, the 1963 San Diego Chargers, but he was the first head coach to win divisional titles in both the AFL and NFL. Gillman’s teams ranked among the leagues top five in passing yards 15 of his 18 pro seasons.
The Gillman coaching tree extends to today’s NFL coaches and includes the likes of former 49ers coach Bill Walsh, Super Bowl winning coach Dick Vermeil, legendary Steelers coach Chuck Noll and Michigan Hall of Famer Bo Schembechler. Gillman’s descendants have won a total of 25 Super Bowls.
Gillman is only one of two coaches in both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fames and still had teams sending him game film to analyze up until his death in 2003.