“We were together so long,” Beathard, 81, said in a video shared by the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday. “I think he knows more about me and what I did in football, and I know more about him. So I think he was just kind of the natural [pick]. I thought of one of my boys, our kids, but I didn’t think they would enjoy it as much. I thought Joe would just be the right person because we worked together for so long.”
Beathard won two Super Bowls as the director of player personnel for the Miami Dolphins before the Redskins hired him as their general manager in 1978. He hired Gibbs, then the San Diego Chargers’ offensive coordinator and a relative unknown, to replace Jack Pardee in January 1981 after a three-and-a-half-hour meeting with owner Jack Kent Cooke.
“He has a track record that speaks for itself,” Beathard said at the time. “Besides being bright and a terrific X’s-and-O’s man, Joe has demonstrated leadership. You can find a lot of fine assistant coaches but there are few assistants who can lead. Joe has an unusual talent to get along with players.”
In Wednesday’s video, Beathard said he was sold on Gibbs after a conversation with Ernie Zampesi, an assistant on the Chargers’ staff when Gibbs was in San Diego.
“We got Joe and Joe was great,” Beathard said. “He said, ‘You get the players, we’ll coach ’em.’ We had a great relationship.”
The relationship was strained by the end of the 1988 season. Beathard resigned in May 1989, took a season off and then served as the Chargers’ general manager for a decade before retiring in 2000.
“Is there disagreement? There has been disagreement between me and Bobby from the first day I was here, as far as players at times,” Gibbs said at the 1989 draft, a few weeks before Beathard resigned. “I think that when somebody works as closely as Bobby and I do and our lives are so tied together and our careers are so tied together, obviously, there are times Bobby and I would disagree on a player, whether he should come or go.”
“I love the guy,” Beathard said before Gibbs’ induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996. “I have so much respect for him. That’s probably the most fun I’ve had in a relationship with a head coach. There were times we had differences near the end, but those two positions are always going to have disagreements. You look back at the differences, and the team turned out the better for it. When we talk on the phone now, we start telling stories and laughing.”
During his acceptance speech, Gibbs thanked Beathard for taking a chance on him in 1981.
“Can you imagine him going into Jack Kent Cooke and recommending they hire Joe Gibbs?” Gibbs said. “I can hear Mr. Cooke now, ‘Joe who?’ Bobby, thanks for having guts enough to do that. I also want to say thanks for picking all those players and making it easy.”
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