Ex-Detroit Lions coach Buddy Parker makes Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist list

Detroit Free Press

It’s “Forward down the field” for former Detroit Lions coach Buddy Parker’s Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy.

Parker advanced another step Wednesday, as the two-time NFL champ was one of 12 coaches and contributors to make the final 12 under consideration by the Hall’s Coaches/Contributors committee.

Parker coached the Lions for six seasons (1951-56), going 47-23-2 (.671) with Detroit and winning the 1952 and 1953 NFL championships, followed by a loss in the 1954 title game. His .671 winning percentage with Detroit is No. 2 for the franchise all-time, trailing only the .679 of Potsy Clark (1931-40). His Lions finished second or better in their division in five of his six seasons at the helm. Parker was previously a finalist for the Hall’s Centennial Class, which was inducted in 2021.

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He also played two seasons for the Lions, signing with Detroit out of college, and played fullback, helping the team win its first NFL championship in 1935. He played the rest of his nine-year career with the Chicago Cardinals.

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The committee will meet again on Aug. 23 to narrow the field to one, who will be voted on by the Hall’s main committee of writers early in 2023. Parker is far from the most accomplished coach in the group, which includes Super Bowl winners Mike Holmgren and Mike Shanahan, as well as innovators such as Don Coryell and Dan Reeves. The group also includes television exec Roone Arledge, who came up with “Monday Night Football” for ABC and current Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The other coaches/contributors: front-office executive Frank “Bucko” Kilroy; Browns/Ravens owner Art Modell; Steelers vice president Art Rooney Jr.; coach Clark Shaughnessy; and long-time executive John Wooten.

Parker’s resignation as Lions coach, citing issues with rowdy players and the organization’s leadership, shocked the city in August 1957. The Lions went on to win the 1957 NFL title with George Wilson, Parker’s offensive coordinator, as coach. The organization has won just one playoff game, following the 1991 season, since, and sports the NFL’s longest active postseason victory drought.

Parker was soon hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom he led for eight seasons. The Texas native also coached the Chicago Cardinals for one season (1949). In all, he finished his NFL career with a 104-75-9 (.581) record. Aa a player, he spent two seasons with the Lions (1935-36), rushing 65 times for 177 yards, followed by seven seasons with the Cardinals, during which he saw limited touches as a fullback. Parker died in 1982 at the age of 68.

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The Hall’s Seniors Committee also met Wednesday and narrowed the field of semifinalists to 12, who will be winnowed down to three on Aug. 16 (with final approval in early 2023). The finalists: quarterback Ken Anderson; linebackers Randy Gradishar, Maxie Baughan, Tommy Nobis and Chuck Howley; offensive linemen Bob Kuechenberg; two-way player Cecil Isbell; defensive linemen Joe Klecko and cornerbacks Eddie Meador, Ken Riley and Everson Walls; and wide receiver Sterling Sharpe.

This year’s Hall of Fame induction is Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio, with an eight-person class: tackle Tony Boselli, wide receiver Cliff Branch, safety LeRoy Butler, official Art McNally, linebacker Sam Mills, defensive end/defensive tackle Richard Seymour, coach Dick Vermeil and defensive tackle/defensive end Bryant Young.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.  

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