Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Beathard dead at 86
The world of football today celebrates the colorful life and career of BOBBY BEATHARD, scout, director of player personnel and managing director of two professional leagues for over 38 years.
Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the Contributor category in 2018, Beathard died Monday after a long illness, just six days after his 86th birthday.
“Football is my life,” Beathard told The Washington Post. “That’s all I ever wanted to do. … If I had a lot of money and I didn’t have to work, I would still want to do this.
Pro Football Hall of Fame President Jim Porter called Beathard “one of the great architects of the game”.
“Bobby has not only built winning teams throughout his career, but he’s also built winning cultures that have lasted beyond his years with an organization,” Porter said. “He combined an eye for talent with a special gift for working with other people. The results speak for themselves.”
Born January 24, 1937 in Zanesville, Ohio – about 90 miles south of Canton – Beathard moved with his family to California when he was 4 years old. He didn’t start playing organized football until his sophomore year in high school, but grew in the game quickly, and as a tailback he was talented enough to receive a scholarship offer from Louisiana State University.
Shortly after arriving at the Baton Rouge campus for summer practice, however, he became homesick and returned to California. His affinity for his home country will last forever and will shape several career decisions as well as his daily habits and lifestyle.
Beathard attended El Camino Junior College for a year and then enrolled at Cal Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. As a member of the successful Mustangs football team (17-2 record in 1957 and 1958), he went from backup running back to starting quarterback and defensive back. He and a college teammate, future Hall of Famer JOHN MADDEN, often discussed strategy and their shared love of the game.
Undrafted by the NFL, he landed pro tryouts over the next two preseasons but didn’t land on a roster. He fell out of the game for a few years, turning to various sales jobs to make ends meet.
With his passion for the game unchecked, Beathard found his way back to football through the American Football League. In 1963, LAMAR HUNT and the Kansas City Chiefs offered him the opportunity to scout part-time in his home state and across the West.
“It was kind of a natural thing for me,” he told an interviewer.
Beathard briefly left the Chiefs to seek out the AFL, which at the time was engaged in heated competition with the National Football League to find, draft and sign players. He returned to the Chiefs for the 1966 season – just as the team was ascending to the AFL title and represented the league in the first AFL-NFL World Championship game. He is credited with helping the team find and sign future Hall of Famers CURLEY CULP and JAN STENERUD among other contributors to the team’s long-term success.
He then skipped leagues, joining the fledgling Atlanta Falcons in 1968 as a scout for three seasons. Looking back on his career many years later, he told an interviewer that it was beneficial “for me to see how different organizations did things.”
This experience opened another door a few years later.
Early in the 1972 season, Beathard joined DON SHULA in Miami as director of player personnel, with the Dolphins on the cusp of a perfect team all-time record and consecutive Super Bowl wins.
“Bobby made fewer mistakes than most. And he found kids for us, no one else would take a chance,” Shula told The Washington Post. “He was never afraid to take risks. .”
Demanding and often argumentative with his staff, Shula only demanded that his staff team come to meetings informed and be prepared to stand up for their opinions about the players without hesitation.
Beathard took up this challenge.
“I probably learned more working for Shula than anyone,” he told David Spada in a post-career interview. Beathard said Shula allowed him to hire the scouting staff without hesitation and “prepared me for how to do things for the rest of my career.”
With the Dolphins, Beathard scouted during the week, then returned to the team to coach special teams on Saturdays and Sundays.
“Working for Don Shula is probably what really prepared me for my career in the NFL,” Beathard said in his entrenchment speech.
The Biggest Leap In 1978, Beathard was groomed for the general manager job that would become his path to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. An opening existed in Washington, where coach/general manager GEORGE ALLEN’s term had ended.
A self-proclaimed “beach lover,” Beathard was happy in Miami and nearly turned down the interview request. “It was more responsibility and a step forward, but I didn’t want to go there,” he said.
Shula encouraged him to pursue the opportunity.
Beathard impressed the property and got the job, but soon realized he had entered “a situation where their philosophy was completely different from mine.” The first three seasons were lackluster — a 24-24 record and no playoff appearances.
He then made the most important personal decision of his professional career: he hired JOE GIBBS as head coach in 1981. After an 0-5 start, the team went 8-3 to reach .500 for the season .
In the strike-shortened 1982 season, Washington went 8-1 and reached the Super Bowl, beating the Don Shula-coached Dolphins 27-17 for the title. The team included 27 free agents that Beathard had signed.
“It was almost like forming a new league,” Beathard said of the unusual season, “but it had to be done in 10 days.”
As a team builder, Beathard has placed less emphasis on top draft picks than many of his peers. In 11 years, he gave up in the first round – or completely – in eight drafts.
“We did it a little differently than a lot of people. A lot of people in the league thought I was crazy,” Beathard said. “That may have been true, because I started trading first-round draft picks, and first-round draft picks were valuable…but we thought if it was a draft that we had assessed… and he was rich in talent, we could get players in the next rounds.
Two of the first-round picks Beathard didn’t give up became Hall of Famers: ART MONK and DARRELL GREEN, a player many considered too small for the NFL.
“No matter who we brought in, whether it was a first-round pick in the draft or the last pick in the last round of the draft, every single one of those players had the same chance,” Beathard said in his Enshrinement. word. “And because of that, we ended up making three Super Bowls.”
An avid runner, Beathard ran several Boston and New York marathons, some while working as a general manager in Washington, and also ran part of the Olympic Torch Relay in 1984. He often ran all 6, 4 miles from his home in suburban Virginia to the team offices. His secretary told the Washington Post in a 1981 article, “When Bobby says he’s going to ‘go home,’ he means it.”
Beathard called the decision to go to Washington “probably the best decision I’ve made” in football.
The teams Beathard built won the Super Bowl after the 1981 and 1987 seasons. He also laid the foundation for the team that won Super Bowl XXVI three seasons after leaving Washington.
“He could go to a small school and bring out the real talent,” said Ricky Sanders, a standout receiver at Southwest Texas State who thrived for eight seasons with Washington.
Return to California Beathard resigned from his post in Washington before the 1989 NFL Draft. He returned to his native California and spent a season as an NFL analyst for NBC.
In 1990, he was hired to revive a San Diego team that hadn’t made the playoffs in nearly a decade. By year three, the Chargers were 11-5 and the AFC West champions. Two years later, they reached the Super Bowl for the first time in team history, beating Miami and Pittsburgh in the AFC playoffs before losing to the San Francisco 49ers.
“Coming back to San Diego was like a dream come true,” Beathard said in his entrenchment speech. “I have to be close to my parents. And fortunately, we have enough players to participate in another Super Bowl.
Beathard remained with the Chargers through the 2000 season. He retired, saying all travel was detrimental to his health and he never wanted to “pick a player that I hadn’t seen in person”, what was needed more frequently.
He was done with football but not with the competition.
From 2005 to 2009, Beathard won first place in the men’s 65+ category at the annual World Bodysurfing Championships.
At a Washington team meeting, 12-year-old offensive tackle George Starke said, “When you think of classic football executives, you don’t think of Bobby Beathard. He’s kind of a surfer. He looks like a surfer, and he is a surfer, and yet he has a natural sense for talent (football).
The first time Beathard met team owner Jack Kent Cooke at the team facility, he was wearing what served as his usual office attire: T-shirt, running shorts and running shoes.
Mike Allman, the director of player personnel for 19 years in Washington, told a reporter, “What you see is what you get. You couldn’t invent a guy like Bobby Beathard. It’s an original.
Describing himself as a lucky man who “went through life without a real job”, Beathard called his life in football “something I loved doing every day”.
Beathard’s legacy as a talent evaluator on teams that reached the Super Bowls in Kansas City, Miami, Washington and San Diego will be forever preserved at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.