NEWS Hall of Fame Washington football executive Bobby Beathard dies at 86

Hall of Fame Washington football executive Bobby Beathard dies at 86

Bobby Beathard was an NFL executive who laid the foundation for seven Super Bowl teams during his Hall of Fame career and won two as general manager of the Washington NFL team in the 1980s. The two-time champion, died on January 30 at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. He is 86 years old.

His son, Casey Beathard, said the cause was a complication of Alzheimer’s disease.

With his blond flower-boy hairdo, the slender physique of a marathon runner and the laid-back vibe of a California surfer (which he grew up with), Mr. Beathard doesn’t fit the archetype of a professional team executive. He refuses to wear ties and blazers, let alone suits, and his everyday attire consists of shorts and jogging shoes or flip flops, giving him a bohemian vibe.

But that appearance is misleading. He was widely regarded as a master of sports management, a skilled negotiator whose deliberate demeanor belied nervous preparation and an uncanny instinct for commitment to many young players.

During his nearly four-year career in the NFL, his teams — primarily the Miami Dolphins, Washington and San Diego Chargers — won 10 division titles, seven conference titles and four Super Bowls.

As head of scouting operations for the Miami Dolphins from 1972 to 1977, he built a Dolphins dynasty with coach Don Shula. In Mr. Beathard’s first season with the team, the Dolphins went undefeated to win the Super Bowl, which is still unmatched in NFL history.

With Mr. Beathard as his talent coordinator, Shula led the Dolphins to a collective 63-21 record and two Super Bowl trophies during Mr. Beathard’s six seasons in Miami. The team went 6-1 in the playoffs.

“He’s a very good scout,” Shula later told The Washington Post. “No one has a perfect record, and you make mistakes. But Bobby made fewer mistakes than most. He found some kids for us that no one else would take. He was never afraid to take risks.”

His years in Washington, from 1978 to 1988, formed the core of his legacy and the year he cemented his reputation as an unrivaled scout. During the decade, he hired a little-known NFL assistant, Joe Gibbs, as head coach and built one of the most dominant teams in the league, making three Super Bowl appearances and winning two. At the end of his tenure in Washington (the team is now known as the Commander), Sports Illustrated called Mr. Bizard “the smartest guy in the NFL.”

When he arrived in Washington the same year as new head coach Jack Pardy, the team relied on remaining veterans, the so-called “gang on the hill,” who had been the backbone of the team under its recently departed coach, George Allen. Despite the team’s 10-6 record in 1979, Mr Bizard did not see the approach as an effective long-term strategy and suggested that team owner Jack Kent Cook, against Paddy’s wishes, surrounded young players Form a team.

Cook sided with Mr. Bissard, telling the Post that he “decided to support Mr. Bissard’s plans for a successful future.” was fired in the acrimonious finale of . By then, Washington had also not made the playoffs in four years.

Weeks after Paddy stepped down, Mr. Bizard tried to revive the team by hiring Gibbs, the San Diego Chargers’ offensive coordinator who began to make a name for himself building an offense around a strong passing game. Mr Beathard had to sell the inexperienced Gibbs to the skeptical Cooke.

“There was only one guy, and he was the right guy. I’m sure, but you’ve got to believe me,” Mr Beathard recalled to the Post in 2000. “He said, ‘Who is this? I said, ‘Joe Gibbs.’ ’ He said, ‘Who the hell is Joe Gibbs? I’ve never heard of him. I keep telling him, ‘You have to trust me,’ and he keeps saying, ‘If it’s not the right guy, they’re going to nail us down. on the cross.’”

When Gibbs started his first season in 1981 with a five-game losing streak, Washington sports fans complained loudly. But Mr Bissard has never wavered in his support for his new, unproven coach. The following season, under the leadership of Gibbs, the team won the Super Bowl.

In an era before the Internet and advanced indicators, Mr. Beathard was lauded for his instinctive skill at spotting talent. “Bobby Beathard changed the way players were viewed,” Clark Judge, a longtime NFL beat writer and columnist, said in a 2022 interview for this obituary. “It’s not just measurable. He has instincts and he takes risks on people that others don’t.”

He built a talent network across the country who referred him to potential NFL college players, and he eschewed first-round picks, trading them away to stockpile late-round picks in the draft. He believes there are plenty of good players that others miss, and he recognizes them by often being alone on the road and watching them play in person.

He’s only used the team’s first-round pick three times during his years in Washington. The 1983 Super Bowl winning team included 26 free agents signed by Mr. Beathard.

“Bobby can go beyond 4.4 or 39 inches of vertical jump and tell you if the guy is a player,” former All-Pro Los Angeles Rams running back and friend Jon Arnett told Sports Illustrated in 1988. “Any scout can time or measure a jump with a tape measure, and 90 percent of them do. We all knew Bobby was going to find guys who were really competitive because he was competitive himself.”

In the 1981 draft, Mr. Beathard selected future Pro Bowlers such as linebacker Russ Grimm, defensive passer Dexter Manley and wide receiver Charlie Brown in later rounds. That same year, he signed undrafted forward Joe Jacobi, a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

When he did use his first-round pick, Mr. Beathard found the likes of receiver Art Monk and cornerback Darrell Green, both Hall of Famers, as well as Pro Bowl offensive tackle Mark May. May, Grimm and Jacoby were key members of the famous “Hogs” offensive line, which became one of the best in NFL history.

When asked about his instincts, former Caltech college star Mr. Bissard told the Canton (Ohio State) database: “Even in college, I seemed to get a sense of who the really good players on our team were. Whether it’s loving games, playing games or watching games. I don’t know what that is.”

Mr. Bissard left Washington for San Diego after the 1988 season, but Washington won another Super Bowl in 1992, loaded with players from the Bissard era. He formed San Diego’s only Super Bowl team (now the Los Angeles Chargers), which lost the 1995 game.

The third general manager to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018, Mr. Bissard was introduced by Gibbs, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame 22 years before Mr. Bissard. “In the NFL, you’re measured by the Super Bowl,” Gibbs said. “The bottom line is, if you hire Bobby Beathard, you get the Super Bowl.”

Mr. Beathard had great success spotting football talent, but he made one of the biggest draft mistakes in NFL history in 1998 when he selected Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf. Leaf was out of the league within three years and was later convicted of burglary and drug charges. An NFL documentary called him “the number one draft loser” in NFL history.

“Never in my career have I seen a player with so much talent use so little of it,” Mr Beathard told ESPN.

Robert King Beathard Jr. was born January 24, 1937 in Zanesville, Ohio. His father ran a tile factory and his mother was a housewife. At the age of 4, the family moved to El Segundo, California, near Los Angeles. Their home is half a mile from the Pacific Ocean, where Bobby indulges in surfing and swimming. By the age of 11, he had won a rack full of swimming medals, but football was his best field.

He became the starting wingback as a sophomore at El Segundo High School, and despite his relatively small frame — 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds — he earned LSU football scholarship. Before the season started, he became so homesick that he returned to California and enrolled at El Camino Junior College for a year.

At Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, he became the starting quarterback and defensive back for the 1957 and 1958 seasons, during which the team went 9-1 each year. Among his teammates was future Hall of Fame NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden.

Mr Bissard was “one of those really tough and stubborn guys,” Madden told the Post in 1981. “He’s small but he can really play football. Big guts.”

Mr. Beathard’s younger brother, Pete, also became USC’s star college quarterback, leading the Trojans to a national championship in 1962. He went on to have a long professional football career.

Undrafted after graduation, Bobby Beathard signed with Washington as a free agent, but it didn’t last long. After briefly selling insurance and chemicals, he became a part-time scout for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963, working in the western states. One of the players he found for Kansas City was kicker Jan Stenerud, who played for the Chiefs in 13 of 19 seasons and is the fourth kicker inducted into the Hall of Fame one of the hands.

Beginning in 1968, he signed with the Atlanta Falcons, where he continued to spend weeks on the road. This led to the breakdown of his first marriage to Larae Rich, with whom he had four children.

In 1978, Mr. Beathard married flight attendant Christine Van Handel. In addition to his wife, survivors include four children from his first marriage, Kurt, Jeff, Casey and Jamie; his brother; and 13 grandchildren, including the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback CJ Beathard; and seven great-grandchildren. Another grandson, Clayton Beathard, was murdered outside a Nashville bar in 2019.

Mr Beathard, a passionate body surfer and serious marathoner whose best time was an impressive 2 hours and 30 minutes, missed meetings to attend his training sessions. But football remains his motivation.

His love for the sport was on display when he married Van Handel at a friend’s house in Marina Del Rey, California. The wedding was postponed because Mr Bizard and his friends were upstairs watching an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

At halftime, he ran downstairs to his wedding and returned upstairs before the marching band left the venue.

“It was the fastest wedding I’ve ever seen,” Ted Grossman, a Hollywood stuntman and close friend, told the Los Angeles Times. “I was turning around when Bobby put the ring on Kristin’s finger. Next thing I knew, we were going back upstairs to watch the game.

“I remember Kristen saying, ‘Is this always going to be like this?’ and Bobby saying, ‘I’m afraid it is.'”

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