Former Washington and Dolphins exec Bobby Beathard, who helped build 4 Super Bowl winners, dies at 86

FILE - Former Washington Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard poses with his Hall of Fame trophy during halftime of an NFL football game between the Houston Texans and the Washington Redskins, Nov. 18, 2018 in Landover, Md. The four-time Super Bowl winning executive has died. He was 86. A spokesperson for the Washington Commanders said Beathard's family told the team he died earlier this week at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file)
Bobby Beathard knew how to build a winner in the NFL. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file)

Bobby Beathard, a Hall of Fame general manager who helped construct Super Bowl winners for the Miami Dolphins and Washington Commanders, died Monday. He was 86 years old.

His son, Casey Beathard, told The Washington Post his cause of death was complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Beathard spent nearly four decades in NFL front offices, starting with the Kansas City Chiefs as a scout in 1960 and retiring as general manager of the Chargers when they were in San Diego. He carved out a reputation as one of the NFL's sharpest negotiators and judges of talents in the years between, and the results speak for themselves.

That includes four Super Bowl rings and seven conference championships.

After nearly a decade as a scout for the Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons, Beathard joined the Dolphins as director of player personnel in the fortuitous year of 1972. With head coach Don Shula also running the team as general manager, Beathard spent his first year as a high-level executive helping call the shots for the NFL's only undefeated Super Bowl champion.

His Dolphins tenure continued through 1977, a span of time that saw Miami go 63-21 in the regular season and win another Super Bowl in 1974. That success alongside Shula landed Beathard the top front office job in Washington.

Three years into his D.C. tenure, the Commanders fired head coach Jack Pardee. Beathard, tasked with finding his successor, decided to hire Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Gibbs, but needed a 3½ hour interview to convince Washington owner Jack Kent Cooke the relatively obscure assistant was the man for the job.

From the Post:

“Who in the hell is Joe Gibbs?” Beathard recalled Cooke asking him, during an NBC interview. “‘If we hire a guy named Joe Gibbs, they’ll never forgive us. You’re going to be fired.’ I said, ‘No, just stick with it.’”

Sticking with it proved fruitful for all three men. With Beathard drafting the likes of Art Monk, Darrell Green, Russ Grimm, Mark May and more, Gibbs made Washington a powerhouse in the 1980s. By the Post's count, 26 members of the Commanders' 1983 title-winning team were free agents signed by Beathard.

Beathard resigned in 1989 after two Super Bowl wins and five playoff berths with D.C., which would win another ring in 1991 with a similarly constructed team. Beathard then spent a year as an NBC analyst before taking the Chargers general manager job.

The previously moribund Chargers won their division in his third season and reached the Super Bowl in the 1994-95 season. Beathard retired in 2000, after demonstrating you can't win them all with the drafting of Ryan Leaf (he told ESPN, "during my career I've never seen a player that had so much talent do so little with it").

Beathard was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

Per the Post, Beathard is survived by his wife, Christine, four children from his first marriage, his brother Pete, 13 grandchildren, one being Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback C.J. Beathard, and seven great-grandchildren. Another grandson, Clayton Beathard, was murdered in 2019.

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