With his blond pageboy haircut, marathon runner’s lean physique and laid-back presence of a California surfer, which he had been since childhood, Mr. Beathard did not fit the archetype of a professional team executive. He refused to don a tie and sports jacket, let alone a suit, and his everyday attire of shorts and jogging shoes or flip-flops gave him a certain rakish affability.
But that outward appearance was misleading. He was widely regarded as a master of sports administration, a skillful negotiator whose unflappable demeanor masked intense preparation and uncanny intuition about the promise of many young players.
In a career spanning almost four decades in the NFL, his teams — mostly notably the Miami Dolphins, Washington and San Diego Chargers — won 10 division titles, seven conference championships and four Super Bowls.
As head of the Miami Dolphins’ scouting operation from 1972 to 1977, he worked with coach Don Shula to build the Dolphins dynasty. In Mr. Beathard’s first season with the team, the Dolphins went undefeated and won the Super Bowl, a feat still unmatched in NFL history.
With Mr. Beathard as his talent coordinator, Shula guided the Dolphins to a collective 63-21 record with two Super Bowl trophies during Mr. Beathard’s six seasons in Miami. The team went 6-1 in the postseason.
“He’s a guy with a great eye for talent,” Shula later told The Washington Post. “Nobody has a perfect record, and you’re going to make mistakes. But Bobby made fewer mistakes than most. And he found some kids for us nobody else would take a chance on. He wasn’t ever afraid to take a risk.”
His years in Washington, from 1978 to 1988, formed the centerpiece of his legacy and one in which he cemented his reputation as a nonpareil talent scout. It was a decade in which he hired a little-known NFL assistant, Joe Gibbs, as head coach and formed one of the league’s dominant franchises, taking three trips to the Super Bowl and winning twice. By the end of his tenure in Washington (with the team now known as the Commanders), Sports Illustrated dubbed Mr. Beathard the “smartest man in the NFL.”
When he arrived in Washington, the same year as new head coach Jack Pardee, the team relied on holdover veteran players, the so-called “Over-the-Hill Gang,” who had been the backbone of the lineup under the recently departed head coach, George Allen. Despite the team’s 10-6 record in 1979, Mr. Beathard did not consider this practice an effective long-term strategy and advised team owner Jack Kent Cooke, against Pardee’s wishes, to build the team around younger players.
Cooke sided with Mr. Beathard, telling The Post he “decided to endorse Mr. Beathard’s program of a winning future.” Following a 1980 season with a 6-10 record, the team’s worst in years, Pardee was fired in an…
Read More: Bobby Beathard, Hall of Fame Washington football executive, dies at 86