(Cover photo courtesy of San Diego Chargers)
(Photo above courtesy of Washington Redskins)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Hail to the Redskins.
Washington finally got it right Saturday when it named former general manager Bobby Beathard to its Ring of Fame … and hallelujah. Beathard, who built the Redskins into a dynasty in the 1980s, left the club in May, 1989 … and, for some reason I never understood, was as forgotten as he was gone.
Translation: The club never added his name to its Ring of Fame.
Do the math, people. That’s over 27 years … 27 years where the Redskins named former players and coaches to a Ring of Fame that includes former trainer “Bubba” Tyrer, a former public-address announcer and one former Prince Georges County executive.
But no Bobby Beathard.
Look, I don’t know what took so long, either, but it doesn’t make a difference. Not anymore it doesn’t. Because Washington corrected that oversight/mistake/lapse in judgment by doing the right thing and adding Beathard’s name to the luminaries already in Washington’s inner circle – with Beathard honored during halftime of the team’s Nov. 13 game vs. Minnesota.
“Certainly, it’s quite an honor, and I’m excited about it,” Beathard told me this week. “The only thing I’m not excited about is if I have to make a speech. I hate making speeches. Other than that, Dan Snyder and those guys over there … (like team president) Bruce Allen … they’ve been great to us.
“Whether I had gotten in or not, I never really have thought about it. And if it had never come about, I still would’ve been just as loyal to the Redskins. I pull for them every year. But this is neat.”
All Beathard did in his 11 years as Washington GM was turn a team that hadn’t won a playoff game since 1972 into one of the league’s heavyweights. During his tenure there, Washington was 105-63, went to four conference championship games, three Super Bowls and was 11-3 in the playoffs.
But look more closely. From 1981-87, Washington was as good as it gets – going 74-30 and winning two Super Bowls.
That was the Joe Gibbs era, when the Redskins went to three Super Bowls in seven years. Three years after Beathard’s departure, they were in another Super Bowl – winning it with Gibbs and with the talent Beathard accrued with former assistant GM Charley Casserly, who succeeded him.
“He’s the best general manager in the history of the league,” Casserly said later.
The addition of the relatively unknown Gibbs, then the offensive coordinator for San Diego’s “Air Coryell,” was a stroke of genius, with Beathard hiring him after deciding that Jack Pardee, then the Redskins’ head coach, had to go. But there was a catch: Beathard wanted his new coach to retain a defensive staff that included Richie Petitbon, who would become the team’s defensive coordinator.
“What happened,” Beathard said, “is when I went there they already had a coach in Jack Pardee. A really nice person, but he had a different agenda from what mine would be. We wanted to build through the draft with young players, and he was from the George Allen era (where you) trade your picks and use veterans. We felt that was a dead-end street and, sooner or later, you run out of things.”
So the call went to Gibbs, and the rest you know.
“I had a good friend, Ernie Zampese, who was an offensive assistant out there in San Diego with Don Coryell,” Beathard said. “I always talked to Ernie, and I talked to him when we were going to make a change. And I asked Ernie, ‘Is Joe ready?’ And he said, ‘Joe’s ready.’ That’s all I needed to hear.”
Together, the two were to the NFL what Lennon and McCartney were to songwriting. In fact, Beathard was so good at what he did that Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman called him “The Smartest Man in the NFL.” Three decades later, I asked an NFL owner if that title was accurate; if he and his staff believed at that time that it was Beathard who set the bar for other GMs, personnel directors and, yes, organizations to follow.
He nodded and said he was.
Now, Bobby Beathard’s not only the 49th member of the Redskins’ Ring of Fame but is on the short list for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With the Hall next month proposing two contributors as candidates for the Class of 2017, the smart money is on Beathard to be one of the choices.
Here’s hoping he is. If Washington’s Ring of Fame can get it right, so can Canton.