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Buddy Parker
Buddy Parker 1961.jpg
No. 4, 15
Position:Fullback, linebacker, defensive back
Personal information
Born:(1913-12-16)December 16, 1913
Slaton, Texas
Died:March 22, 1982(1982-03-22) (aged 68)
Kaufman, Texas
Height:6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight:193 lb (88 kg)
Career information
High school:Kemp (TX)
College:North Texas
Centenary
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
As player
As coach
Career NFL statistics
Head coaching record
Regular season:104–75–9 (.577)
Postseason:3–1 (.750)
Career:107–76–9 (.581)
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR
Coaching stats at PFR

Raymond Klein "Buddy" Parker (December 16, 1913 – March 22, 1982) was an American football player and coach in the National Football League (NFL), who served as head coach for the Chicago Cardinals, Detroit Lions, and Pittsburgh Steelers.[1]

Parker is one of two former NFL head coaches (with George Seifert) to win multiple championships and not be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Playing career

Born in Slaton, Texas, Parker grew up in Kemp, southeast of Dallas. He played collegiately for North Texas (in 1931) and for Centenary College in Louisiana for three years beginning in 1932.

Parker then signed with the Lions as a fullback in 1935, and during his first season, he helped the team capture the NFL championship. After one more year in the Motor City, he was traded to the Cardinals and spent the next seven seasons with Chicago, also seeing time on defense as a linebacker and defensive back. During the latter two years, he added the duties of backfield coach before becoming a full-time assistant in 1945.

Coaching career

Chicago Cardinals

In 1947, the Cardinals captured their second (and only undisputed) NFL title, then lost in a blizzard in the following year's championship clash at Philadelphia. On February 3, 1949, Parker and Phil Handler were named co-head coaches of the Cardinals, replacing Jimmy Conzelman, who had left to work for a local advertising agency. The unique arrangement, which had Parker handling the offense and Handler the defense, quickly proved to be unworkable, and Handler was returned to the front office on October 25 with the Cardinals sporting a 2–4 record.

In the season's final six games, Parker's team won four games, but a 52–20 loss to the crosstown Bears was quickly followed by Parker's surprising resignation on December 11. Publicly he stated, "I'm tired of being a head coach. The duties are too demanding", but Parker also reportedly was upset with his uncertain job status.

Detroit Lions

Parker on 1952 Bowman card
Parker on 1952 Bowman card

After first reconsidering his abrupt departure, Parker then signed as backfield coach of the Lions on January 21, 1950. However, after head coach Bo McMillin found himself in continuous battles with players during the ensuing campaign, he resigned on December 19, with Parker being promoted to the top job the following day.

Parker and quarterback Bobby Layne would popularize what became known as the two-minute offense, which allowed a team's offense to quickly move down the field late in a game. In Parker's first year, he led the team to a 7–4–1 record, good for a second place tie in the Western Conference. While the record was slightly better than average, he began bringing in the talent that would turn the team into a dominant force over the next few years.

Parker's superstitions also became legendary, with none of his players ever wearing the number 13, and the team always staying at the Chicago Hilton hotel when playing either the Bears or Cardinals. That choice of lodging changed after the team was placed one year on the 13th floor and lost.

In 1952, the Lions defeated the Los Angeles Rams in a divisional tiebreaker playoff on December 21, then used a strong defensive effort to defeat the injury-plagued Cleveland Browns 17–7 on the road in the championship game. In 1953, the two teams again met for in the title game, with some late heroics by Layne and Jim Doran to squeeze out a 17–16 thriller in the December 27.

Putting together a 9–2–1 mark in 1954, the Lions and Browns met for the third straight year, but this time, Cleveland battered Detroit 56–10. The after-effects of the result lasted throughout the following year, when retirement and injuries plunged the Lions to a 3–9 last-place finish. Parker was able to make another run for the title in 1956, but the Lions dropped the season finale to the Bears, the key play coming when Layne was knocked out of the game with a concussion from a hit behind the play that Parker felt was both cheap and illegal.

On July 26, 1957, Parker obtained quarterback Tobin Rote from Green Bay, a prescient move that would help the team when Layne broke his ankle and Rote then led the Lions to their third championship in six years. However, Parker was not around to enjoy the championship season after stunning the football world by resigning on August 12 during the team's preseason training camp dinner. In front of a large audience which expected him to deliver a keynote speech, Parker instead informed the audience that he was quitting.[2][3] longtime assistant coach George Wilson was promoted the following day.[4][5] George Plimpton wrote of this incident in his 1966 best-seller Paper Lion. In his resignation Parker cited an inability to control his players, but his struggle in obtaining a two-year contract from Lions' management also likely played a role. As of 2021, Parker is the last Lions head coach to get another head coaching job in the NFL.

Pittsburgh Steelers

After first reports had him replacing Baltimore Colts head coach Weeb Ewbank, Parker became the head coach of the Steelers on August 27, signing a five-year contract.[6][7] During his first season, Parker led the team to a 6–6 mark and began making countless trades that left the team with few top draft choices over the next six years.

During the 1958 preseason, Parker attempted to get the players' attention by cutting five veterans, including Billy Wells, the team's leading rusher the previous season. He also reunited with Layne, trading for the signal caller on October 6. The price (quarterback Earl Morrall and two first round draft picks) was steep, but the immediate impact was evident: Pittsburgh improved to 7–4–1, their best record in a decade.

The next two years, the Steelers managed to compete at a .500 level, but dropped to 6–8 in 1961. The next year, the team finished second in the Eastern Conference with a 9–5 mark. During the latter year, the team challenged despite the retirement of Layne and the tragic off-season death of Eugene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb.

The aging team then began a decline that continued until the arrival of Chuck Noll in 1969. Pittsburgh finished 5–9 in 1964, and Parker signed a three-year deal on January 22, 1965, saying that the team was not that far away from a championship. He would change his mind when the team dropped its first four exhibition games, and repeated history by resigning on September 5, reportedly telling team owner Art Rooney, "I can't win with this bunch of stiffs."

Legacy

Throughout his coaching career, Parker went 104–75–9 (.577), while going 3–1 in the postseason. He is one of 43 NFL coaches to have over 100 coaching regular season victories. The Professional Football Researchers Association named Parker to the PRFA Hall of Very Good Class of 2008.[8]

In 2020, he was named a coaching finalist for the first time as a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's "Centennial Slate." He was again up for the class of 2021, but was among the coaches part of the final cut.[9] In 2022, he was named a semifinalist by the coaches/contributors committee and was shortly named as one of the 12 finalists, the second time for Parker.[10][11]

Later life

Parker never again coached, spending much of his remaining years in the real estate field, but he did receive job offers. In January 1966, he was under consideration for a Rams' assistant position under George Allen, then was a candidate for head coach of the Washington Redskins in December 1968. He was a special assistant under Bud Wilkinson on the 1978 St. Louis Cardinals.

In 1982, he underwent surgery for a ruptured ulcer on March 7 in Kaufman, Texas, but complications left him unconscious until his death fifteen days later.[1]

Head coaching record

Team Year Regular season Post season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CHI 1949 6 5 1 .545 3rd in NFL Western Division - - - -
CHI Total 6 5 1 .545 0 0 .000 -
DET 1951 7 4 1 .636 2nd in National Conference - - - -
DET 1952 9 3 0 .750 1st in National Conference 2 0 1.000 Won National Conference Playoff over Los Angeles Rams
Won NFL Championship over Cleveland Browns
DET 1953 10 2 0 .833 1st in Western Conference 1 0 1.000 Won NFL Championship over Cleveland Browns
DET 1954 9 2 1 .818 1st in Western Conference 0 1 .000 Lost NFL Championship to Cleveland Browns
DET 1955 3 9 0 .636 6th in Western Conference - - - -
DET 1956 9 3 0 .750 2nd in Western Conference - - - -
DET Total 47 23 2 .671 3 1 .750
PIT 1957 6 6 0 .500 3rd in Eastern Conference - - - -
PIT 1958 7 4 1 .625 3rd in Eastern Conference - - - -
PIT 1959 6 6 0 .500 4th in Eastern Conference - - - -
PIT 1960 5 6 1 .458 5th in Eastern Conference - - - -
PIT 1961 6 8 0 .429 5th in Eastern Conference - - - -
PIT 1962 9 5 0 .643 2nd in Eastern Conference - - - -
PIT 1963 7 4 3 .636 4th in Eastern Conference - - - -
PIT 1964 5 9 0 .357 6th in Eastern Conference - - - -
PIT Total 51 47 6 .520 0 0 .000 -
Total 104 75 9 .581 3 1 .750

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Ex-Steeler coach Buddy Parker dies". Pittsburgh Press. March 23, 1982. p. B-7.
  2. ^ "Buddy Parker quits as Detroit grid coach". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. August 13, 1957. p. 16.
  3. ^ Diles, Dave (August 13, 1957). "Parker quits Lions". Owosso Argus-Press. (Michigan). Associated Press. p. 11.
  4. ^ "George Wilson to coach Lions". Pittsburgh Press. United Press. August 13, 1957. p. 30.
  5. ^ "Aide succeeds Buddy Parker". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. August 14, 1957. p. 22.
  6. ^ Sell, Jack (August 28, 1957). "Parker new coach of Steelers". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 1.
  7. ^ Livingston, Pat (August 28, 1957). "Parker takes over Steeler reins". Pittsburgh Press. p. 48.
  8. ^ "Hall of Very Good Class of 2008". Archived from the original on October 3, 2018. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  9. ^ @WixieEarlWilson (19 August 2020). "@VinLospinuso91 @RonBorges Coaches were Tom Flores, Mike Holmgren, Buddy Parker, Shaughnessy, Coryell and Vermeil" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  10. ^ https://www.si.com/nfl/steelers/news/pittsburgh-steelers-art-rooney-jr-buddy-parker-hall-fame-semifinalist
  11. ^ https://www.freep.com/story/sports/nfl/lions/2022/07/27/ex-detroit-lions-coach-buddy-parker-pro-football-hall-of-fame-finalist/10169642002/