Sid Gillman

“A brilliantly reported and written work that will not only teach you things about one of football’s greatest innovators, it will tell you things you never knew about one of football’s greatest times. This book is as memorable as the man who inspired it.”

–Mike Freeman, author of “Undefeated: Inside the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ Perfect Season”

“Gillman’s incredible football journey is, for the first time, closely chronicled in Josh Katzowitz’s welcome and much-needed biography, Sid Gillman: Father of the Passing Game. These days, it doesn’t happen often that a sports author brings to light a truly historical figure whose story has somehow gone untold. Katzowitz, however, has accomplished that.”

–Lonnie Wheeler, NYT best selling co-author of “I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story

“A fantastic read.”

Mo Egger, 1530 ESPN, Cincinnati

“Katzowitz, who writes on the NFL for, does a nice job in an entertaining and well-researched book …”

–Bob Hunter, Columbus Dispatch

Katzowitz’s book does a great job profiling the mercurial Gillman, showing his development as a coach and the influence he had on his players as well as on schemes, and is an important contribution to football history of a somewhat more recent vintage. Books about football coaches tend to focus almost exclusively on the handful of men fortunate enough to win several Super Bowls or National Championship games; what makes Gillman’s life so interesting is while he didn’t exactly toil in obscurity, he still operated as something of an outsider, somewhat he transformed into a strength.”

–Chris Brown, author of “The Essential Smart Football”

“In the end, I appreciate the work Josh Katzowitz did in telling Gillman’s story. I knew Sid Gillman reasonably well, but I walked away from this book with a better understanding of the man. If football fans are looking for a fresh, new read this season (or their loved ones are looking for a great holiday gift!), Sid Gillman: Father of the Passing Game will educate and entertain thoroughly, which in my mind, is the mark of a good book.”

–Todd Tobias, Tales From the American Football League

“Looking for an Xmas gift for a football fan? Josh Katzowitz’s book which I’ve just finished on Sid Gillman is great.”
–Sam Monson, Pro Football Focus

Some early reviews:


Sid Gillman’s wait for the Miami Hall of Fame (2-12-13)

Ben Roethlisberger is the most important player to roam the field for Miami University in many decades. I hesitate to call him the best RedHawks/Redskins player ever, though there’s a case to be made that he’s the top quarterback that the school has ever produced. But best ever? Because of former standouts like Paul Dietzel, Mel Olix and Travis Prentice, I’m really not sure.

Either way, nine years after leaving the school for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Roethlisberger was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame on Saturday. Obviously, that’s deservedly so.

Roethlisberger’s* induction, though, reminded me of Sid Gillman, and the reasons it took him until 1991 for the Miami gatekeepers to deem him HOF worthy.

Read more here.

Why Tommy Tuberville is sort of like Sid Gillman (12-12-12)

You have to have love stories like this one, regarding how former Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville sneaked out of Lubbock in the middle of the night to take the Cincinnati job. Well, it wasn’t really the middle of the night. No, it was during the middle of dinner.

Read more here.

Sid’s silent minority (10-15-12)

In the course of arranging interviews for my Sid Gillman book, I came across a number of people who didn’t want to talk. Most who refused didn’t want to speak to me on the record or off.

This didn’t happen when I was interviewing for my first book, Bearcats Rising – well, that’s not true; one old University of Cincinnati running back named DeMarco McClesky, one of the better players in the 1990s, declined to talk to me through another former player. But for the most part, I found that when I told someone I was writing a book, they were more than happy to talk for as long as I wanted. And even the ones who normally were terrible quotes transformed into great talkers.

Hell, Rick Minter – who probably got screwed out of coaching UC in the Big East and had a real reason to be bitter – sat with me at a Frisch’s restaurant for three hours discussing things good and bad as I asked him tough questions about his job performance. And then he bought me breakfast afterward.

Read more here.

Sid’s better half (9-5-12)

When I first decided to write a book about Sid Gillman, I knew he was what my grandma Essie would call “a character.” When you’re writing a biography, that kind of unique personality is essential. Sure, Gillman was one of the most innovators in pro football history, but you can’t spend 300 pages solely discussing the fact he’s the only person that resides in the pro and college football halls of fame or the intricacies of his vertical offense or why the 1959 season with the L.A. Rams went so badly awry.

He can be a football wizard, but in order to possibly write a compelling biography, he can’t be boring.

No, he has to be the first coach to room his white players with his black players, he has to be the first pro football coach to spring a team-wide steroids ring, he has to be a bastard, he has to be a sweetheart, he has to be a family man who spends most of his time watching football film. He has to be a contradiction and an enigma. He has to be the kind of guy who can inspire hatred and love and wonder and annoyance in the same conversation with the same person.

For better and for worse, he’s got to be a character who can carry a book.

And it helps if he has the kind of wife like Esther.

Read more here.

Sid Gillman and his love of jazz (8-21-12)

When I first got into the book-writing game, I thought you could throw all your research, all your interviews, all your written words into your masterpiece of a tome. And there it would stick, all your thoughts (every single one) for all the book-reading public to consume.

I had all the space in the world, right? So, I figured, why not mash all the good stuff in there? Somebody gave me an excellent quote that didn’t really fit the context or the narrative? Shoehorn it in. I discovered a story that’s too good not to include somewhere? Make room for it. Or, in the case of my first book, I’d done too much reporting on a season not to include the whole freakin’ thing, no matter how irrelevant that slate of games was a half-decade later? Fold it up like origami and stuff it in. I was writing a book, dammit. Pile that sandwich high and shove it down the reader’s throat.

But here’s the thing: 300 pages or 100,000 words really isn’t all that much. Yes, it’s an enormous mountain to climb when you’re at the base and you haven’t conducted interviews or written a single word. But when you have dozens of folders stuffed with research and an entire flash drive filled with transcribed quotes – and you have hundreds of stories that need to be resurrected – those pages and words disappear faster than your oxygen at the mountain’s peak.

Which brings me to Sid Gillman’s love of jazz.

Read more here.

Writing a biography on a lost soul (8-3-12)

Sid Gillman, in so many of the interviews I’ve read of him, wasn’t especially forthcoming. Well, that might not necessarily be true. When the interviewer wasn’t asking questions about Sid specifically – if the queries tilted toward his team or about football or about the famous coaches he knew and supported – he was fine. I don’t think he loved dealing with reporters* and I think he especially didn’t love talking about himself.

I mean, good lord, look at some of the answers Sid gave to Todd Tobias in this interview a couple years before Sid died. Could he have said anything less when asked about himself?

*There is a great story in my book about Sid swearing off reading the newspapers after getting into a spat with the media during his first season with the Los Angeles Rams in 1955. The legendary L.A. sports columnist Mel Durslag told me that Sid swore off reading the papers forever. Durslag asked Sid what he would do during breakfast instead of reading the local rags. “I’m going to eat my eggs and look out the goddamn window,” Sid smartly replied.

Read more here.

Can anybody identify this man? (2-13-11)

The man on the left is Sid Gillman, the subject of my latest book. I have no idea about the guy on the right. Does anybody know him? This picture comes from the Gillman era in Houston — so, we’re talking 1973 or 1974. If you get me the right answer, I’ll put you in the acknowledgments section of the book when it comes out this summer and I’ll praise you for the rest of eternity.

So, in a word, help.

Sid Gillman is the subject (1-27-11)

It’s time to start ramping up this website again. It’s time to start posting. It’s time to start promoting. Now that my book is nearly finished, I can finally tell you that the subject matter is the fascinating Sid Gillman, the father of the NFL’s modern-day passing offense. After working on this tome for about 18 months, it’ll finally be out this summer.

I literally have about 25 more words to go, but I haven’t yet figured out how to write the ending of the book. I have some ideas, but can’t figure out the right combination of words. It’ll come … hopefully, soon.

And then, the full-fledged Gillman-mania will begin.

Some pictures of my tools of the trade as I get set to write this bad boy.


So, it looks like I’m going to be writing another book. Publication is scheduled for July 2012. When I get the contract signed, I’ll start contributing to this new page on the web site and tell you what I’m writing about (psst, it’s not a sequel to Bearcats Rising).

Excited to start, though. Excited to research and interview and organize and write. Just excited.

Oct. 9, 2010
Time to start. Or something.

I’ve got this mountain I have to climb. I stare up, but I can’t make out the top. It’s too damn far away. It’s above the eagles, and it’s above the clouds. As far as I’m concerned, it could be above the heavens and the moon and the sun, as well. People make it to the top – plenty of people, in fact – but from this view, it’s hard to see how. At the bottom, it’s safe and easy. At the bottom, the research never gets done. The interviews are unheard. The words are never typed, never read. The bottom is easy. The bottom is boring.

Once, I made it to the top of a mountain – a structure that stood 120,000 words tall. You think 120,000 words is a bear to write, and you’d be correct. One hundred and twenty thousand words is almost unfathomable.

You might think about it this way: well, I just need to write 1,000 words a day – that’s about two pages or so on Word – and I accomplish that for four months straight, presto! You’ve got a book. One thousand words a day isn’t really that much. Not really. It actually sounds fairly moderate.

It’s not that easy. It’s not that easy to digest. You could write 1,000 words, but it might be crap. You might have to hit “select all” and flick the delete button. Then, what have you got for your day’s work? You’ve got a blank screen.

In fact, you might not get close to 1,000 words, because you’re swimming in so much research that you might as well be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Not only do you not see land from where you’re desperately trying to tread water, but you can’t even fathom that there is such a place. When you’re swimming that deep in research, 1,000 words might take you eight hours to write. If you’ve got another job, you can’t spend four months straight writing 1,000 words a day. If you’ve got twins, a wife who works and a hectic life, you can forget it. I might as well be Sir Edmund Hillary with two broken legs and a bad case of apathy.

Yes, I’ve done it once before. I’ve done it when I didn’t have kids. I’ve done it when I was freelancing and didn’t have steady hours of work. I’ve done it when Sunday mornings were clear for coffee and Caps lock. I’ve done it when I could spend the afternoon in a coffee shop letting jittery fingers roam.

The finished product was a book I’m proud to have written – Bearcats Rising. It didn’t sell as well as I thought it might. It didn’t make me as much money as I would have liked. But that’s OK. It was an experience, and that experience led me to the top of a mountain. I could plant my flag and breathe in the scenery. But by the time I got to the bottom, I wanted to start trekking back up again.

And now I stand at the bottom, and I have no idea how to get back to the top.

OK, so I’m writing another book. I don’t have a title yet. Hell, I don’t even have a signed contract yet (that’s why I can’t tell you what it’s about). I’ve talked to, like, three people for the book but didn’t really interview any of them. I haven’t done any research. But I’ve been thinking about the subject all week, and I don’t know where to start.

“Why don’t you start where you started for ‘Bearcats Rising?'”

I can’t.

“Why not?”

Because I started where I started, and it turned out, I was wrong to have started there. In fact, where I started, I probably shouldn’t even have included in the book. If that makes any sense at all.

The first time I started, I didn’t have a table of contents per se. I didn’t know how the chapters would fit together. I didn’t know what I was doing.

Now, I have that table of contents, but that’s about it. It will change, because … well, it just will. I’ll learn countless new facts and anecdotes that I’ll need to find a place for in the book. Adjustments will have to be made. Chapters will be moved in, moved out, thrown over there and pulled back over here.

I have so much research to do, and I don’t know where to start. I know I need to organize, but I don’t know what it is that I have to organize.

It almost feels like I’ve never written a book, like I never planted my flag at the summit once before.

And now? Well, now, I have to start. I have to take that first step. The mountain is immense, and I can’t see the top. But I won’t get there unless I get moving. I’ll never reach the sun (or wherever it is that the mountain ends) if I don’t put on my SPF 45 and start walking.

And so, I do.

One response to “Sid Gillman

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Sid Gillman « Reading and Thinking Football

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