Gold Jacket Spotlight: Team-Builder Bobby Beathard

Gold Jacket Spotlight: Team-Builder Bobby Beathard

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According to the old bromide, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.

Bobby Beathard spent 38 years in the National Football League feeling like he had won life’s lottery.

“Football is my whole life,” Bobby once told the Washington Post. “It’s all I've ever wanted to do. … If I had a lot of money, and I didn't have to work, I’d still want to do this.”

Stepping into the Hall of Fame’s Gold Jacket Spotlight this week, Bobby could have been channeling the thoughts of his friend and college teammate at Cal Poly, John Madden, last week’s Spotlight figure who called himself “the luckiest guy in the world” to be a football lifer.

Contributing to both the offensive and defensive backfields, Bobby helped Cal Poly post a combined 17-2 record over two seasons in the last 1950s. Undrafted by the NFL, he snagged tryouts over two preseasons, but he didn’t land on a pro roster and was out of the game for a couple of years primarily doing various sales job.

Then, like it did for many players and non-players, the American Football League opened a new door. The Kansas City Chiefs offered Bobby an opportunity to scout in his home state of California and across the West.

“It was kind of a natural thing for me,” he said.

Bobby and the 1966 Chiefs reached what then was known as the First AFL-NFL World Championship Game. He would be directly connected to seven Super Bowl teams – four that won – and provided the framework for an eighth Super Bowl team.

After a short stint in Atlanta in the NFL, the Miami Dolphins hired Bobby as director of player personnel. His tenure included back-to-back titles, including the perfect 1972 season.

By 1978, Bobby was ready to step into the role that became his path to the Hall of Fame – general manager – and Washington asked for an interview. Ever the beach-lover, he almost turned down the opportunity, but Don Shula encouraged him to pursue the chance.

After three seasons in which the franchise posted a combined 24-24 record with no playoff appearances, Bobby made the most important personnel decision of his professional career: He hired Joe Gibbs. Within two seasons, Washington reached the Super Bowl, beating Shula and the Dolphins 27-17.

Washington made two more appearances in the Super Bowl with Bobby as GM, following the 1983 and 1987 seasons, losing Super Bowl XVIII and winning Super Bowl XXII. He left Washington after the 1988 season to move back to California, but the team returned to the Super Bowl, and won, three years later with many of the core players Bobby had acquired.

Bobby offered in-studio analysis for “NFL on NBC” for one NFL season, and in 1990 jumped right back into a GM role with the struggling San Diego Chargers. By Year 3, the team was in the playoffs and by Year 5 in the Super Bowl.

Talent evaluation was Bobby’s greatest strength. Jan Stenerud, a skier turned football kicker at Montana State, was one of his first scouting discoveries. As a GM, he was known for trading down, even out of high rounds, to acquire more picks, but he also knew when he shouldn’t pass on talent. Art Monk, Darrell Green and Junior Seau, all Hall of Famers, were examples of his many Draft Day successes.

All the while he remained true to his California roots, running and surfing as often as possible and never straying too far from a beach.

“What you see is what you get,” Mike Allman, Washington’s director of personnel said of Bobby for a Washington Post article. “You couldn't make up a guy like Bobby Beathard. He's an original.”

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