CANTON, Ohio — It was a year ago this month that the Talk of Fame Network contacted Washington Redskins’ president Bruce Allen to ask him what he thought about former general manager Bobby Beathard reaching the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With Beathard named to the Redskins’ Ring of Fame the previous month, the question seemed reasonable.
And so was Allen’s response.
“We strongly believe that Bobby Beathard belongs in the Hall of Fame,” he said.
Apparently, so does the Hall … because the former Washington and San Diego general manager on Friday was named as the sole contributor candidate for its Class of 2018. Beathard, chosen over candidates like Denver owner Pat Bowlen, former Giants’ GM George Young, former Dallas personnel chief Gil Brandt and New England owner Robert Kraft, becomes the sixth nominee since the category was established in 2014 and the third former general manager.
Ron Wolf and Bill Polian, members of the inaugural contributor class in 2015, are the two other GMs.
“It’s great,” said Beathard, reached by phone at his Tennessee home. “It tops everything. I was just lucky, I don’t how to explain it. I just loved football. I really felt that I was fortunate, lucky or something to spend my life in something that didn’t seem like a real job … something that was fun to do.”
Asked if he thought this day might never happen, Beathard paused before answering.
“I don’t know,” he said, before laughing. ““I thought it if it didn’t, I’d just go back to work and see what happens.”
Beathard’s NFL career dates back to the 1966 Kansas City Chiefs and, later, the Miami Dolphins of the 1970s where he was the team’s player personnel director and the Dolphins won two Super Bowls, including a 17-0 season in 1972.
But it was Washington where he made a name for himself as general manager. Hired in 1978, he immediately rebuilt a franchise that hadn’t won a playoff game since 1972. Not only did the Redskins reach the Super Bowl three times in nine seasons, winning two, but they produced an NFC-best winning percentage (.625) during Beathard’s tenure there and the second-best in the NFL. Furthermore, the club that won a third Super Bowl in 1991 was stocked largely with players chosen by Beathard.
The Redskins haven’t been back since. Not only were the Redskins one of the NFL’s dominant teams under Beathard, they produced the best playoff record (11-3) of anyone on his watch.
Much of the credit for Washington’s success, of course, rightly goes to former head coach Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls there with three different quarterbacks – none of whom is in the Hall of Fame. But Gibbs is, elected in 1996, and it was Beathard who hired him.
“I think you have to tip your hat to Bobby for hiring Joe,” Allen said.
Moving on to San Diego in 1990, Beathard quickly did for the Chargers what he did in Washington. San Diego hadn’t been to the playoffs in nine years, but that changed with the arrival of Beathard – with an under-the-radar trade in 1992 for quarterback Stan Humphries, whom he drafted in Washington, the key move. Not only did the Chargers have a four-year run where they were in the postseason three times; they reached their first Super Bowl in 1994.
They haven’t been back since.
Former Washington GM Charley Casserly, who worked as an assistant under Beathard, called him “the best general manager in the history of the National Football League.” Sports Illustrated called him “The Smartest Man in the NFL.” And when Wolf, who was elected to the Hall in 2015, was asked about Beathard, he openly wondered why it was he, not Beathard, who went into Canton with the first contributor class.
“I think he’s a perfect fit for the Hall of Fame,” said Allen.
As the sole contributor candidate, Beathard is considered apart from the modern-era class – much as were the two senior candidates (Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer) named Thursday. All will be presented for nomination to the entire Hall-of-Fame board of selectors on Feb. 3, 2018, the Saturday prior to Super Bowl LII. If they gain the support of 80 percent of the board’s 48 voters, they will be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018.