HOF Preview: Team builder Beathard heads into Hall of Fame
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Bobby Beathard loathed first-round draft picks and reveled in taking chances on players from out-of-the-way colleges.
It was a formula that paid off with two victories in four trips to the Super Bowl as general manager of the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers.
He also loathes dressing up, meaning the gold blazer he’ll wear when he’s inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame won’t get much use after Saturday night’s ceremony.
“I don’t think I’ll be wearing it many places except there,” Beathard said. “I don’t think I’ll be going out to dinner with that coat on.”
That’s Beathard, 81, who always was more comfortable dressed as a Southern California beach bum. In jobs ranging from scout to general manager, he helped build seven Super Bowl teams for four franchises, including four winners, during a career lasting nearly four decades.
Beathard was so low-key that when Kevin Gilbride was hired as Chargers coach in 1997 and insisted that everyone wear a coat and tie on road trips, even the GM, Beathard reached into his pocket on one trip and found an NFL schedule from 1989. That had been the last time he wore a blazer, when he worked on NBC’s pregame show.
Beathard certainly didn’t need a blazer for scouting trips to small colleges, or to bodysurf in his beloved Pacific Ocean, run the Boston Marathon or have a few beers once a week with his buddies in Franklin, Tennessee, where he’s lived for several years.
But he’ll have to wear one Saturday night.
His presenter will be Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, hired by Beathard with Washington before the 1981 season.
“I would have had one of my sons but I think it was more appropriate to have Joe,” Beathard said. “We spent a long time together.”
Gibbs, inducted in 1996, coached the Redskins to victory in two of the three Super Bowls the Redskins reached in the 1980s. Those are the teams Beathard is best-remembered for building.
He also built the San Diego Chargers’ only Super Bowl team, which was routed by San Francisco in the 1995 game.
He began his career as a part-time scout for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963 before leaving to scout in the AFL. He returned to the Chiefs in 1966, when they played in the first Super Bowl. In 1972, Beathard was hired as director of player personnel for the Miami Dolphins, who won consecutive Super Bowls.
The Redskins hired him as GM in 1978 and he began doing things his way. He viewed first-round draft picks a commodity to be traded away to stockpile lower picks. He also worked the free agent market. In 1982, the Redskins team that won the Super Bowl included 27 free agents signed by Beathard since he was hired. In his 11 years in Washington, the Redskins used their first-round pick only three times.
In 1988, Sports Illustrated called him “The Smartest Man in the NFL.”
Beathard didn’t like the title.
“That was kind of embarrassing,” Beathard said. “Whoever put that in there, I told them when it first came out, ‘Well, you better go back and ask my high school and college teachers if that’s true, and I don’t think they’d agree with that.’ ”
Taking Beathard’s entire career as a whole, the label certainly fit.
“If I ever got into that position, I had a plan how I wanted to do it and it wasn’t that the No. 1 draft pick was the most important thing,” Beathard said about becoming a GM. “Every year we’d go out all year to all the colleges, scouting and looking at the players. And if it was a draft that was deep in talent I thought it was more valuable to get some of the later picks, because there were real good players down there, not only in the first round. If you had a high pick in the first round, trade that and get multiple picks where all the other players were. Fortunately it worked out for us. The only grief I got from it was from Darrell Green.”
Of all his draft picks and free agent signings, Beathard said his favorite was Green, the 5-foot-8 defensive back from Texas A&I who was taken with the 28th pick overall — the last pick in the first round — of the 1983 draft. Green went on to a Hall of Fame career.
“That doesn’t mean the other guys, the Art Monks, the Russ Grimms and the Jeff Bostics, all those other guys, it doesn’t mean those weren’t just as important,” Beathard said. “When we took Darrell Green, I’ll never forget the phone call. When I called Darrell he was down at Texas A&I and I called Darrell and said, ‘Hey Darrell, it’s Bobby; we took you.’ He got mad at me and said, ‘Why did you wait until last pick to take me?’ And I said, ‘The way the draft works, we won the Super Bowl so we had the last pick, so blame the other (27) teams that didn’t take you. Don’t blame us.’”
Beathard left the Redskins in May 1989 and was out of the NFL only one season before being hired by the Chargers. His first draft pick was Junior Seau and the Chargers reached the Super Bowl five seasons later. Seau was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
When he scouted colleges, Beathard, who retired in April 2000, said he’d look beyond the players recommended by coaches.
“I traveled the whole country to every school that played football to look for players. I got to see the players personally, besides the scouting staff. I just had a lot of confidence in my evaluation. I wasn’t afraid to take players from small schools, or small players.
“I think of Darrell Green, we had a little receiver, Alvin Garrett, guys that some teams thought we were crazy to take them because they were so small, but they were great players. I guess I was lucky to have a feel for some of these guys and had coaches who were willing to coach them.”
His greatest influences were Don Shula and Al Davis.
Beathard said his best memory is of the Dolphins’ undefeated 1972 season, “but they were all memorable. Any time we made it to that last game, it meant that we were going to the Super Bowl. Those were always great memories.”
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL