In today’s edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, who honor the big, cat quick defensive middle guard who anchored the greatest defense in Lions’ history from 1952-54.
27. Les Bingaman
Defensive Middle Guard (Nose Tackle). 1948-54 Detroit
The Lions appeared in three-straight NFL championship games from 1952-54. During that period, they had one of the league’s toughest defenses. A big reason for that was the play of the 6-foot-3, 300-plus pound Bingaman. In the days before the advent of the 4-3 defense, NFL teams routinely used five-man defensive lines. Those lines were usually anchored by a big, strong, run-stuffing middle guard, better known today as a nose tackle. During the early 1950’s, there were none bigger, stronger, or better at run-stuffing than the man known to his teammates simply as “Bing.”
Bing was large even by today’s standards. However, much like many of today’s 300-plus pounders, he was very quick and agile. In addition, he had decent lateral movement over short distances. Couple those assets with his tremendous brute strength, and it was no surprise that opponents found it tough to gain yardage between the tackles against the Lions during Bing’s career. “He was the strongest man I ever knew,” said his Hall of Fame teammate Lou Creekmur, “I can still hear him in my mind calling out ‘Put ‘em on me Lou, put ‘em on me!’ when we would line up together on our goal line defense.”
Bingaman, who grew up in Gary, Indiana, was an All-American tackle at the University of Illinois. The Lions made him their third-round draft choice in the 1948 draft. During Bing’s first two seasons in Detroit, the Lions would go a combined 6-18. However, 1950 saw the arrival of players like Bobby Layne, Doak Walker, Creekmur, Bob Hoernschmeyer, and Leon Hart, prompting hope that better days were just around the corner.
That hope turned into reality with the promotion of Buddy Parker to head coach in December 1950. In Bingaman’s final four seasons with the Lions their record would be 35-11-2, with two World Championships and three division titles. Bing would retire after the 1954 season with two Pro Bowl appearances, and would leave a void in the middle of the Detroit defense that would cause the Lions to lose their first six games of the 1955 season. The Lions would overcome Bing’s retirement with a switch to the new 4-3 alignment at mid-season, with the new position of middle linebacker manned by a up-and-coming third-year veteran by the name of Joe Schmidt.
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