MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Former Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke said more than once that head coach Joe Gibbs was “the best bloody hire I’ve ever made.”

Actually, the best hire Cooke ever made, at least as a sports team owner, was Bobby Beathard to be the Redskins’ general manager in 1978, because it was Beathard who found the little-known Gibbs, then the offensive coordinator for Don Coryell and the San Diego Chargers, and convinced Cooke to get to know him and to take a chance on him after the big-name owner, who liked to hire big names, asked Beathard, “Who in the hell is Joe Gibbs?”

This was in 1981 and the rest, as they say, is history — a beautiful and glorious history that the professional football team representing our nation’s capital, now known as the Commanders, has longed to recapture. It was an electric time that every professional sports team in Washington has longed to taste; and, in fact, it is an era and a history that any professional sports team in any city would love to experience.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Beathard, who died Wednesday from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, created that time; he constructed that era because he built those teams that went to three Super Bowls, winning two of them, as well as the foundation of the 1991 team that won the Super Bowl two years after he left Washington.

Beathard was the architect of the Redskins glory days. He had the best eye for football talent and the best instincts for intangibles that made a football player as anybody has ever had. He also had a good eye for football coaches, for while Cooke gave his approval and hired Joe Gibbs, it was Beathard who selected him, and the Redskins soon became the very best organization in the NFL for over a decade.

Beathard was always a scout at heart, even though he was often the general manager. He rarely signed a player without having first seen him in person. He began in pro football as a scout with the Kansas City Chiefs, who went to two Super Bowls and won one of them. He moved on to the Atlanta Falcons briefly before being hired by Don Shula to be the player personnel director of the Miami Dolphins.

Those Dolphins went to three Super Bowls and won two of them, one with the only undefeated team in NFL history in 1973.

After leaving the Redskins in 1989, he returned home to California to become the GM of the San Diego Chargers. He hired former Maryland and Georgia Tech head coach Bobby Ross and, you guessed it, the Chargers went to their only Super Bowl in team history.

All told, Beathard’s teams won 10 division titles, seven conference titles and five Super Bowls.

Bobby Beathard was cool, taking the Redskins out of the stuffy D.C. bureaucratic persona they had long maintained in the world’s most powerful place. He had long blond hair, he was tan, he was from California, he was a surfer, a bodysurfer and he ran marathons. In fact, he ran six miles to work most mornings.

He was so far ahead of his time, yet and he and Gibbs built their teams around the basics – great and deep offensive and defensive lines.

He preferred lower draft picks to first-round draft picks and traded down or out of the first round in eight of the 11 years he was in Washington.

Beathard’s legendary draft class of 1981 that became the foundation of decade-long Washington greatness was offensive tackle Mark May in the first round, Hall of Fame offensive guard Russ Grimm in the third, defensive end Dexter Manley in the eighth, wide receiver Charlie Brown in the ninth and defensive tackle Darryl Grant and tight end Clint Didier in the 12th. He also signed offensive tackle Joe Jacoby, who should be in the Hall of Fame, as an undrafted free agent.

When he did draft in the first round he rarely missed: Hall of Famers Art Monk, Darrell Green and Junior Seau. Of course, he also drafted quarterback Ryan Leaf, who has been remembered as the biggest draft bust in NFL history.

Beathard was hip, he was California laid-back cool, he was smart and he was the very best at what he did. So much so, that the anti-establishment general manager was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame by the NFL’s uber-establishment.

The first time he met Cooke at Redskins Park, he was dressed in what served as his usual office attire: T-shirt, running shorts and running shoes. He was also big on flip-flops.

Mike Allman, the director of player personnel for 19 years in Washington, told a newspaper reporter, “What you see is what you get. You couldn’t make up a guy like Bobby Beathard. He’s an original.”

He was the best bloody hire Jack Kent Cooke ever made.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT