Executive Bobby Beathard, Pro Football Hall of Famer, dead at 86

Hall of Famer Bobby Beathard, an NFL executive who won four Super Bowl rings and led two other teams to pro football’s biggest game, died Monday. He was 86.

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The cause of death was complications from Alzheimer’s disease at his home in Franklin Tennessee, his son, Casey Beathard, told The Washington Post.

Bobby Beathard won two Super Bowl rings with Miami during the 1970s and two more with Washington during the 1980s, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He also guided lifted San Diego and Kansas City to Super Bowl appearances. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

Beathard was part of 10 division winners and served as the Dolphins’ director of scouting operations from 1972 to 1977, according to the Post. He was part of the staff in Miami that put together the NFL’s only unbeaten, untied season in 1972, ESPN reported.

“He’s a guy with a great eye for talent,” Miami coach Don Shula later told the Post. “Nobody has a perfect record, and you’re going to make mistakes. But Bobby made fewer mistakes than most. And he found some kids for us nobody else would take a chance on. He wasn’t ever afraid to take a risk.”

Beathard’s greatest success occurred in Washington, where he was general manager from 1978 to 1988. Beathard hired coach Joe Gibbs in 1981 and drafted Hall of Famers Art Monk, Russ Grimm and Darrell Green, ESPN reported.

Washington won the Super Bowl after the 1982 and 1987 seasons.

“Bobby was a man of extraordinary class and integrity and was the architect behind the greatest teams in this organization’s history. He cared deeply about everyone he worked with and always put the team first. Bobby is rightfully enshrined in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Washington Ring of Fame and will go down as one of the greatest executives in NFL history,” the Washington Commanders said in a statement. “We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Christine, children Kurt, Casey, Jeff and Jaime along with the entire Beathard family. Bobby’s impact on our franchise and community will never be forgotten.”

In an era before the internet and advanced metrics, Beathard was praised for his ability to find talent.

“Bobby Beathard changed the way people looked at players,” Clark Judge, a longtime NFL beat writer and columnist, told the Post in 2022. “It wasn’t just the measurables. He had intuition and he would take chances on people others would not.”

Beathard left Washington for San Diego after the 1988 season and built the Chargers’ only Super Bowl squad, according to the newspaper.

He was criticized for drafting quarterback Ryan Leaf as the No. 2 overall selection in 1998 and traded several first-round draft picks, but Beathard helped the Chargers reach the Super Bowl after the 1994 season, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers, ESPN reported.

Beathard became a part-time scout for the Kansas City Chiefs and was part of the organization that represented the AFL in the first Super Bowl. One of his scouting finds was Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud, according to the Post.

Robert King Beathard Jr. was born in Zanesville, Ohio, on Jan. 24, 1937, according to the Post. When he was 4, his family moved to El Segundo, California, where he excelled at El Segundo High School as a tailback, the newspaper reported.

He received a scholarship to LSU but became homesick and returned to California, where he enrolled at El Camino Junior College for a year, according to the Post. Beathard later enrolled at Cal Polytechnic State University and was part of a squad that went 17-2 during the 1957 and ‘58 seasons, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.