1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Friday “NFL-A GM Unlike Any Other”
“NFL-GM–Unlike Any Other”
You knew there was bad-sad news coming.
It invokes sadness today, despite the fact we all know what the finish line from Alzheimers looks like.
Bobby Beathard, the NFL Hall of Fame General Manager, passed away at the age of 86, leaving behind maybe the most unique resume of anybody in an NFL-GMs chair.
He was the architect of Super Bowl teams ,twice in Miami, 3-times with the Washington Redskins, and the lone appearance of the Chargers.
NFL GMs are known to be reclusive, workaholic, less than honest individuals. They trust no one on the outside of their inner circle. All but Beathard.
He worked round the clock hours, but part of his day also entailed surfing and jogging. His frequent flyer mileage was monumental, but he balanced the demands and pressure of being an NFL decision maker, with making life fun.
Was he competitive,you bet, but he was fearless at decision time on player acquisitions.
His calling card was mining players from every type of school. He had his boots on the ground everywhere, from Heritage Hall at USC to tiny South Carolina State in Orangeburg.
No stone unturned and no fear about taking gambles with draft picks he had not traded away.
Beathard cut his teeth with the AFL famous Kansas City Chiefs. Do you remember the best nose tackle in that league, Curly Culp? Remember the Swedish kicker Jan Stenrud? Beathard went everywhere-anywhere to look at players.
He combined drive and talent evaluation skills with Don Shula and look at the end result in Miami, the only unbeaten team in NFL regular season history. The era-aura of their leadership led to Super Bowl wins.
In Washington, he hired a little known offensive line coach, Joe Gibbs and they made enormous history. He founded the ‘Hogs’ offensive line. He took a Syracuse quarterback and made Art Monk a legendary receiver. Anyone know where Texas A&I is? Beathard did and here came Hall of Famer Darrell Green.
He put all the pieces of the puzzle together in the box, that resulted in the Chargers becoming a Super Bowl team. Along the way, he hired Bobby Ross, called ‘just a college coach’ by Marty Schottenheimer, and watched him glue all the pieces together for that 1994-Bolts team that grinded its way to the Super Bowl.
Players come from many places. Anyone can draft a Hall of Famer like Junior Seau. Not everyone can find a legendary safety like Rodney Harrison at a place like Western Illinois. Beathard did..
You get access to star quarterbacks at the top of the draft board, but who could have imagined Beathard sighting-seeing-developing a mad bomber like Stan Humprhies from Northeast Louisiana.
And of course stapling street free agents together, brought him the ‘Tons of Fun’ defensive tackles Ruben Davis-Sean Lee on that Bolts team.
He saw things that made Touchdown Tony Martin and Sean Jefferson the two go two receivers on that Chargers Super Bowl team.
He visualized a journeyman defensive end who became a stud left tackle in Harry Swayne. He squeezed a great season out of longtime Saints tackle Stan Brock and he recycled kicker John Carney among others.
But player personnel is not a perfect science. Thus there were bad decisions. Not taking a flyer on Tom Brady available in the 6th round. The horrific decision on Ryan Leaf haunted him his entire career, in part because Washington State coach Mike Price lied to Beathard about Leaf the person, far different than Leaf the player.
4-Super Bowl rings later…10-Division titles in his pocket…7-Conference titles were part of the reasons Sports Illustrated called him the ‘Smartest Man in Football’.
Beathard’s smile and low profile surfer-dude personality, made him fun to be around. His favorite greeting was ‘Howdy’, and somewhere between his birthplace, Zanesville, Ohio, to his upbringing in El Segundo, he became a Country and Western fan.
Flip Flops and Cowboy boots, jogging shorts and tee shirts were part of his daily regimen.
He accomplished alot while working for two ruthless people, the often despised Jack Kent Cooke and then Alex Spanos.
I will remember two pictures in my mind’s eye, him hugging the Spanos’ when the Chargers beat the Steelers in the AFC-Championship game earning the ticket to the Super Bowl.
I will also remember him with tears in his eyes, choked up, unable to talk when it was apparent he was being forced out, the press release said ‘retired’ but should have said fired in the aftermath of a (1-15) season.
He could be defiant, as witnessed when he fired popular head coach Bobby Ross. He could be an idealist thanking Humphries for his courage and leadership when a brutal concussion ended the QBs career.
He could be friendly with the media, joking, laughing, and yes yelling if he did not think something I said on a talkshow was not right, or if TJ Simers wrote something rude.
The door to his office was always open, and you would get honest answers, some even off the record.
There was a gleam in his eye, whether talking about a big win, or talking about riding a wave off Carlsbad. Surfboards and quarterback sacks were part of his DNA.
History should write he was ‘eclectic…electric…eccentric’. He was a savant when it came to finding players. He had no fear either when it came to making the tough decision.
I will think fondly of him for his football smarts, his loyalty, and his special personality. We won’t see this style ever again in the NFL.
Bobby Beathard…Surfer Dude….RIP. Thanks for coming our way.