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"I gave him what I thought was a pretty good play," says Buddy, "but Dublinski just shook his head. 'I got something that'll knock their eye out, coach,' he said. Tom went back in the huddle, called the play, and it went for long yardage."
Parker has now gone in strong for defense. In their third game of the year, the Lions blanked Baltimore, 35-0. It marked the first time since 1945 that a Detroit team had shut out a rival, a stretch of 107 games. During a span of three early season games against the Chicago Bears, Baltimore and Los Angeles, Detroit's defense went 130 minutes without yielding a touchdown.
Critics have held that professional football's popularity was built on free-scoring games and that tight defensive play would drive fans away, but Parker doesn't believe it.
"It might be different if Detroit had a defense and nothing else," he says, "but we can move the ball with the best of them. I'm sick of 'Basketball on the Green' and I think the fans are, too. Our defensive men get as much applause when they leave the field as our touchdown boys do."
Thirty minutes of every practice session is given to defensive work. The entire practice Thursday is devoted to it and half the final practice on Friday. Parker is a believer in short practice periods.
"When I was a player," says Buddy, "I got to hate those three-hour tortures. We do 90 minutes early in the season and later in the year cut it down to an hour. When we're on the field, we run; we do our talking in the clubhouse. I found out long ago that you don't beat the enemy on Sunday by murdering each other on Wednesday."
As a player Parker was even less a celebrity than he has been as coach. With little known Centenary College in Louisiana during the 1934 season, he was an unheralded quarterback who managed to gain, unappreciated by most followers, close to 1,000 yards rushing. The Lions saw him and invited him to alternate between fullback and blocking halfback as a substitute for the great Ace Gutowsky and Frank Christensen. The Lions won the championship in 1935 and finished third in their league the next year. In 1937 Parker was traded to the unbelievably bad Chicago Cardinals who managed to lose 55 games while winning only 17. Parker retired virtually unknown in 1943.
Next year, however, he became an assistant coach with the Cardinals. Under Jimmy Conzelman in 1947 the Cards won the pro championship, and in 1948 they lost the play-offs. In 1949, with Conzelman out, Parker and Phil Handler became co-coaches of the Cards, an arrangement that was doomed from the start. By midseason the Cards had won two and lost three and Parker took over. He managed to salvage a 6-5-1 record for the season.
He was not for the Cardinals, though, and in 1950 he appeared in Detroit as an assistant to Bo McMillin. In the peculiar way of pro coaches, he had no idea he would be back with Detroit the following year and was ready to accept a minor offer from the Green Bay Packers when the phone rang and he became head coach of the Lions. The rest is a headache for rival coaches.
Parker has four assistants, George Wilson, Aldo Forte, Garrard (Buster) Ramsey and Paul Christman, part time. All are former N.F.L. players, with the hard-core professional outlook. Forte handles the tackles, guards and centers; Wilson the offensive backs and ends; Ramsey the defensive backs and Christman the quarterbacks. During a game they have definite assignments. Parker handles the quarterbacks; Wilson the offensive substitutions; Ramsey the defensive substitutions; and Forte and Christman work the pressbox-to-bench phones.