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Raymond “Buddy” Parker, coach of championship Lions teams, selected as 2024 Hall of Fame finalist

Parker won a championship as a player, then spearheaded the dominant 1950s Lions squads.

Detroit Lions Celbrating in Locker Room

Only one man in history can say he has won a championship as both a player and a coach of the Detroit Lions. In their long and ancient history, Raymond “Buddy” Parker stands alone—earning his first ring on the gridiron in 1936, and then two more as the Lions coach in the 50s. Now, he’s earning new respect. On Wednesday, Parker was selected as a Coach/Contributor Finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2024, placing him on the cusp of entry into Canton.

While the 2024 Hall of Fame class is marked by a large crop of eligible players (including Antonio Gates and Julius Peppers), only one coach/contributor is elected as a finalist each year. Parker’s finalist status comes in a heated class, where he beat out New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan and former New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars coach/executive Tom Coughlin in the category.

Parker still needs to earn 80 percent of the votes from the Hall’s 50-person selection committee to be inducted.

Raymond Parker, better known as “Buddy,” signed with the Detroit Lions in 1935, coming out of Centenary College as a fullback, and helped the team to capture a NFL Championship in his rookie year. He only played one more year in Detroit before being traded to the Chicago Cardinals, where he eventually became an assistant coach.

Parker was hired as a head coach by the Cardinals in 1949, but retired less than a year later, citing exhaustion from the duties. Nevertheless, he was back coaching by January of next year, this time with the Detroit Lions. He was given the reins to an offense spearheaded by two future Hall of Fame players: quarterback Bobby Layne and halfback Doak Walker.

With Layne and Walker, Paker innovated the two-minute offense, bringing up-tempo play to the NFL and giving the Lions a tactical advantage on the offensive front.

Parker’s Lions clashed with Paul Brown’s Cleveland Browns in three straight NFL Championships, first winning in 1952 as a favorite and then rallying for a fourth quarter touchdown and conversion to claim victory in 1953; they would end up losing in a blowout in 1954.

All told, Parker coached 15 years in the NFL, taking the reins of the Pittsburgh Steelers after abruptly leaving the Lions prior to the 1957 championship season; he finished his career with a 107-76-9 record. To this day, he is the last Detroit Lions head coach to earn another NFL head coaching job after leaving the team.

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