When Bobby Beathard was hired as general manager of the Redskins February 24, 1978, he became the first to hold that title in the 46-year history of the franchise. Previously the head coach generally had GM duties as well. Though Bill Parcells didn’t get that opportunity in New England, the thinking was that the one who did the cooking should be able to buy the groceries. But the thinking from then owner Edward Bennett Williams in 1978 was, the last cook (head coach and general manager George Allen) had become too powerful. When he fired Allen at the end of the 1977 season, Williams determined that he needed division of power. He hired Jack Pardee as coach and chose the 40-year-old Beathard as GM.
Beathard’s name was tossed around quite a bit last week with the hiring of Scot McCloughan. Beathard is the Redskins gold standard for the GM job. Charley Casserly, who replaced Beathard in 1989, and is believe it or not, the only other general manager in Redskins history (that’s right – only three) and was on the job when the Redskins won their third Super Bowl after the 1992 season, but Beathard laid the foundation for that team. The question every Redskin fan wants to know – can McCloughan even approach Beathard’s 11-season record of three NFC Championships and two Super Bowl titles? – Not to mention the third he helped put together.
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to look back at what Beathard did in building the Redskins great decade of the 1980’s. The team he took over had finished 9-5 the year before and hadn’t had a losing season in seven years. But the future had been mortgaged. The Redskins not only didn’t have choices in the first six rounds for 1978, picks in the first three rounds for 1979 were also gone. Allen never had much use for rookies, so he usually traded the picks for veterans. Plus what was left on the roster was pretty old. Free agency didn’t exist and the draft was the only way to rebuild. But Williams indicated he chose Beathard because he’d help rebuild Miami after the Dolphins Super Bowl success of the early 70’s and hoped he could do the same for his draft-bare team.
Beathard’s first-ever pick was Tony Green, who didn’t play long, but made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner. The following year, without a pick in the first three rounds, he brought in Don Warren, Rich Milot and Monte Coleman. Warren and Coleman won three rings apiece and Milot won two. Finally with a first-rounder in 1980, Beathard selected Art Monk, who won three rings and made the Hall of Fame. And then in 1981, Beathard knocked it out of the park. Here is the ’81 draft, which ranks as one of the best in NFL history:
1st round – Mark May, played in three Super Bowls, won two
2nd round – pick traded to Baltimore for Joe Washington, played on two Super Bowl teams, won one
3rd round – Russ Grimm, played in four Super Bowls, won three, Hall of Fame 2010
4th round – Tom Flick
5th round – Dexter Manley, played in three Super Bowls, won two, Redskins all time sack leader
6th round – Larry Kubin, played in two Super Bowls, won one
7th round – traded pick to Rams
8th round – Charlie Brown – played in two Super Bowls, won one
9th round – Darryl Grant – played in three Super Bowls, won two
10th round – two picks, Phil Kessell and Alan Kennedy, neither made the team
11th round – Jerry Hill, didn’t make the team
12th round – Clint Didier, played in three Super Bowls, won two
And if that wasn’t enough, Beathard brought in Joe Jacoby as an undrafted free agent. Jacoby played in four Super Bowls, won three, made the Pro Bowl four times and should be in the Hall of Fame. He’s been a semifinalist the last three years. That draft and the addition of Jacoby laid the foundation for the four Super Bowl appearances that would follow in the next decade. Oh and, a few months before that draft Beathard hired Joe Gibbs as coach. That didn’t hurt either.
In the years that followed, Beathard had his share of misses. He took Bob Slater in the second round in 1984 and followed that up a year later by taking Tory Nixon in the second round. In 1986, he took wide receiver bust Walter Murray in the second round. But in that same draft, he took Mark Rypien in the sixth round. Six years later Rypien would be named Super Bowl MVP. And often, when Beathard messed up, he quickly fixed it. He took Mike Oliphant out of tiny Pugent Sound in the third round of the 1988 draft and traded him a year later for Earnest Byner, who had a pair of thousand yard seasons and helped the Skins win their last Super Bowl. But clearly he was able to dine off that ’81 draft for many years.
It seemed that Beathard had everything he wanted in Washington and could have stayed forever. But at the age of 52, he decided to exit after the 1989 draft. He denied reports that he felt like he was losing a power struggle to coach Joe Gibbs, but did return to the NFL with the Chargers a few years later. Thanks to Ryan Leaf and a few other unfortunate moves, that didn’t work out.
Now Scot McCloughan gets to make the calls Beathard once made. He’s the first general manager concentrating solely on football players in the 16-year ownership of Daniel Snyder. Will he last a decade like Beathard and Casserly? It may take a home draft in the next few years like 1981 to make that happen.