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Buddy Parker is tall, taciturn and Texan. His Detroit Lions have won the national professional football championship two years in a row and have a good chance of winning again this year. Not only is Parker the top football coach of America, but he has another distinction: he is almost totally unknown to the general public.
This takes some doing and Parker is the man for it. He has no "color" whatever; he has never in his life dropped a brilliant impromptu quip; he keeps out of controversy and he regards football banquets and Monday-Morning-Quarterback-Clubs with a deadly loathing. Even at private interviews he squirms painfully, shifts position constantly in his chair and chain-smokes cigarets. He came out of Kemp, Texas (population 881, U.S. Census, 1950) and 20 years as professional football player and coach have not cured his shyness.
When Parker took over the Detroit job from the late Bo McMillin, the Lions were a chronic second-division club and there was expectation that the next visitor to the downtown offices would be the sheriff with the usual notice. The team was a small Balkan province filled with internecine warfare, and the directors alternated between bleats of pain and cries of rage. Since that time Parker's record with the Lions has consisted of 30 victories, 10 defeats and one tie. The Detroit franchise is now generally regarded as an uranium mine.
Raymond K. (Buddy) Parker is 40 years old and looks like an athlete. He is trim and well-conditioned, with 200 pounds on a six-foot frame. He retains the nasal twang of his Southwestern drawl and has the leathery lined face of an apple that has been too long in the sun. His dark hair hasn't even a fleck of gray and is parted neatly on the right.
Parker's greatest achievement is in beating Paul Brown, once regarded as the miracle man of football. No Parker-coached team had ever lost to Brown's Cleveland monsters, either in exhibition, regular season or play-off games until Brown pulled a mild upset last season when his Eastern All-Stars beat the West. The Lions N.F.L. championships in 1952 and 1953 were gained by beating Cleveland, 17-7 and 17-16. Brown is balding, complicated and morose. Before each play, he sends in a guard with orders for the next play; Parker gives his quarterback all the leeway in the world.
"That 'play messenger' stuff is the bunk," says Parker. "What's so mysterious about football?"
WHY BUMFOOZLE THEM?
Parker's coaching reflects his personality. His manner is plain and simple. He coaches his team that way.
"If you ask me," he says, "what ruins most teams is over-coaching. I can sit here in my office and think up plays by the yard. You set up an offense and then you think 'I'd better add this play' and a helpful assistant suggests 'Let's put this in.' What about the players out there on the line of scrimmage who have to solve these masterpieces on the spur of the moment? They're smart enough, but why bumfoozle them? We've gone through games where we used only four basic plays and the variations you get off them. You don't outmaneuver teams in this league, you beat them with good solid blocking and tackling."