It helps to be mean if you aren't too big

Red Hickey, the San Francisco 49ers' new coach, explains what it takes to succeed in his business. Also, a résumé of a weekend of shocking upsets
October 11, 1959

He was a square, muscular, awkward-looking end when he played football. He moved gracelessly, the heavy muscles ungainly, but he moved effectively and over and over he caught passes a better end might have missed because he had, superlatively, the tremendous determination that makes a fine pass receiver. He blocked savagely and intently, and he played all-out all the time.

"But finally I got to where I hated to think of Sunday," he said not long ago. "I liked playing football, but when you get over 30, you wake up Monday morning and your whole body hurts. When you're young, you get over the ache in a day or two. But when you get old, you hurt for two or three days, and then it's time to quit. When the Rams offered me a job as end coach, I was glad to take it."

So spoke Howard Hickey, who is the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers now. Oddly enough, he is one of six former ends who are head coaches in professional football. He sees nothing significant in this, although an end must, because of the peculiar demands of his position, have a rather wide knowledge of all the intricacies of offensive and defensive football. In the Western Conference of the National Football League, four of the coaches once played end: Hickey, George Wilson of the Detroit Lions, George Halas of the Chicago Bears and Sid Gillman of the Los Angeles Rams. In the Eastern Conference the ends now coaching are Jim Lee Howell of the New York Giants and Frank Ivy of the Chicago Cardinals.

"It's just a cycle," Hickey said the other day. "Maybe in a few years, half the coaches will have been backs. Or tackles. I don't think ends are smarter than anybody else."

Hickey occupies one of the hottest seats in professional football. San Francisco is a rabidly enthusiastic professional football city. The 49ers have had four coaches since 1946—Buck Shaw, Red Strader, Frankie Albert and now Hickey. The owners and the fans are growing disenchanted with a team which has often appeared capable of winning the Western Conference championship only to fizzle out when the chips are down.

A HARD NOSE FOR TROUBLE

When Frankie Albert quit last year, the owners and the citizenry were anxious to get a truly professional coach. After Hickey was named, one fan said, without real justification, "For the first time since the club was organized, the 49ers have a pro coach."

Nonetheless, this may be the best thumbnail description of Red Hickey. He's a pro. He's tough and, in pro football parlance, hard-nosed. Hard-nosed means he doesn't mind putting his nose into trouble, and he can do it with a fair chance of pulling it out again without any damage.

Hickey looks back a bit wistfully to the days when he played for the Rams. His playing days seem long ago to him, although his last active season was 1948. Pro football seems, to Hickey, to have changed substantially since then.

"They don't hate now like they used to," he said the other day. "When I played with the Rams, we really hated some of the other clubs in the league. Like the Bears. We had one set of helmets for the Bears and another set for the rest of the clubs in the league. We knew every Bear game would be a blood bath.

"I hated the Bears. I wanted to hurt them. It's not that way now. The kids play hard, but they're not mean. Not mean the way the Bears were mean and the way we were mean when we played the Bears."

He thought a minute, gently scratching the thinning red hair on the top of his head.

"There are a few mean guys playing now," he conceded. "Most of them are little guys. You take the big men in the league, men like the Colts' Big Daddy Lipscomb or the others his size, most of them aren't really vicious. They're not out trying to hurt anyone. They don't have to, I guess. Some of the little guys, however, are truly mean. They want to rack someone every time the ball is snapped. I guess if the Lord had put that kind of meanness in a big man it would have been too much. It's frightening right now when you're coaching to look at the size and speed of the men in this league. If the big ones were mean too you can't tell what would happen. Someone would get killed."

Hickey played end for the University of Arkansas in his college days. He played against one of the very good University of Texas teams which had Jackie Crain as its principal running threat. In an early play, Hickey tackled Crain and dislocated his shoulder. When he moved up to the Rams, he played with the same dedication, and he admires it in players now.

"Take Art Donovan, the Colt tackle," he said. "He reminds me of Dick Huffman, the big tackle who used to play with the Rams. He's a tremendously powerful man. He likes to have a blocker come in on him so he can get his hands on him and throw him whenever he wants to. We knew that when we played the Colts last year, so we told the guard who was blocking on Donovan to stay away from him. This guard danced around in front of Donovan all afternoon, staying in his way but never getting close enough for Donovan to get hold of him. Artie got madder and madder, and finally he started yelling at the guard, 'Come on in, you so-and-so. Come on in to me.' But he never did get around the kid to reach our passers, and we beat the Colts. But Donovan is a great tackle because he's a mean tackle."

THOUGHTS ON A WALLOPING

Leaving these generalizations, Hickey's thoughts turned to a 48-14 walloping the Rams had handed his 49ers in an exhibition game early last month. Watching the movies of that game in the week preceding Sunday's game with the Rams, Hickey was his usual optimistic self.

He watched Joe Marconi, the Ram fullback, break loose for a touchdown.

"That was lucky," he said. "They caught our linebacker red-dogging. It wouldn't happen again in a hundred plays. And the trap block on our tackle was perfect. So he goes all the way. A lucky break."

The second half of the game was nearly even, the Rams and the 49ers scoring a touchdown apiece.

"See," Hickey said. "We're not making dumb mistakes in this half. We're playing the way we can play. And it's a different ball game. It'll be a different game Sunday. Watch."

The 49ers assuredly did not make dumb mistakes Sunday. They nearly ran the Rams clear out of Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, bludgeoning them 34-0—the first time the fabulous Ram offense had been shut out since 1949. Fullback J. D. Smith ran for two touchdowns, and Joe Perry, now converted to a halfback, for another; elderly Quarterback Y. A. Tittle passed to Billy Wilson for a fourth; Rookie Tommy Davis, fresh from LSU, kicked the conversions and two field goals. The crowd of 56,028 liked all of it very, very much.

At Philadelphia, the New York Giants ran smack into an Oklahoma twister in the person of Tommy McDonald and succumbed 21-49 to the in-and-out Eagles. Young McDonald, 25, an All-America Sooner back in his college days, not only caught three touchdown passes on plays covering 55, 33 and 19 yards, but also fled 81 yards to score on a punt return.

All told, McDonald caught six passes for 133 yards, faking the Giant defense to a fare-thee-well. Two long scoring passes were thrown by the veteran sharpshooter Norm Van Brocklin, the other by Sonny Jurgensen. Rookie Art Powell's 95-yard kickoff return added to the Giants' blues on one of their rare off days.

At Green Bay everything was still coming up roses for the new head man, Vince Lombardi. Victors over the awesome Chicago Bears in the season opener on the previous Sunday, the Packers remained undefeated by passing a good Detroit team dizzy, intercepting three passes and recovering two Lion fumbles.

At Baltimore, the Colts' wonderful quarterback, Johnny Unitas, had a good half and a bad half against the Chicago Bears. By the time Unitas pulled his socks up and passed for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter it was too late, and the Colts were defeated for the first time at home in nine games, 26-21. Unitas did complete six of 12 passes in the first half; three, however, were completed to opposing defensemen. In the fourth quarter Unitas threw to Colt receivers exclusively and displayed his gameness in adversity.

At Pittsburgh, the get-tough talk of Washington's new coach, Mike Nixon, evidently was worth at least one week's mileage, for the Redskins stunned the Steelers 23-17. Nixon was exceedingly displeased that the Redskins had taken a 49-21 beating from the Chicago Cardinals in their opener. He therefore advised 19 of the Redskins to play for their jobs in the Pittsburgh game, and they did. When the Steelers' bread-and-butter man, Bobby Layne, finally got his team moving it had its moments, but not enough of them.

At Chicago, the Cleveland Browns ground out a 34-7 victory over the Chicago Cardinals in a downpour. Most of the grinding was done by the Browns' one-man team, Jimmy Brown, who slithered and smashed for 147 yards on 37 carries.

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PHOTOGENIAL HICKEY MIEN BELIES HIS THOUGHTS ON FOOTBALL PHOTORICK CASARES PLUNGES OVER FOR CHICAGO SCORE AS BEARS SHOCK COLTS 26-21

X-RAY OF LAST WEEK'S GAMES

Pts.

Yds. Rush.

Yds. Pass.

Pass Comp.

Bears vs.
Colts

26
21

110
74

155
183

12-25
17-38

Eagles vs.
Giants

49
21

76
110

223
223

15-25
19-33

Packers vs.
Lions

28
10

112
82

160
202

8-17
18-34

Browns vs.
Cards

34
7

160
101

139
172

11-14
17-38

49ers vs.
Rams

34
0

235
87

61
90

8-15
15-36

Redskins vs.
Steelers

23
17

84
113

238
268

12-23
22-43

LEAGUE STANDINGS

Won

Lost

Tied

Pct.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Chicago Cardinals

1

1

0

.500

Cleveland

1

1

0

.500

New York

1

1

0

.500

Pittsburgh

1

1

0

.500

Philadelphia

1

1

0

.500

Washington

1

1

0

.500

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Green Bay

2

0

0

1.000

San Francisco

2

0

0

1.000

Chicago Bears

1

1

0

.500

Baltimore

1

1

0

.500

Detroit

0

2

0

.000

Los Angeles

0

2

0

.000

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)