Bobby Beathard liveds in a charming restored farmhouse on seven acres in Oakton with his wife Christine, his three sons from a previous marriage and a docile sheep dog named Huggy. The place is furnished in basic California clutter and, says a friend, "it's a great house, when it works."
More often than not, it doesn't. If it's not the furnace, it's the pipes. If it's not the hot water heater, it's a leak in the roof, none of which Beathard is able to cope with. "Christine does it all," he says. "I hold the hammer."
He is gifted in other areas. As general manager of the Washington Redskins, he is considered by many of his peers to be the best evaluator of talent in the National Football League, even if some his methods are a bit unorthodox, like the man himself.
He is a marathon runner of some distinction who often will trot the 6.4 miles to his office at Redskin Park in Chantilly, then leg it back that night. "When Bobby says he is going to run home, he means it," says his secretary, Barbara Kelley. He also is a vegetarian who thrives on dried nuts, wheat germ and protein powder, though he has been known to sneak a bowl of chili.
He is 44, going on 18, a gregarious, lean, 5-foot-9 package with tousled blond hair and a demeanor nothing less than California surfer, which he once was. Hardly anyone can recall seeing him in a suit and tie. Tell Bobby Beathard the dress for your cocktail party is informal and he will show up in sneakers and Levi's. Ask Ethel Kennedy.
He is an outgoing, unpretentious, likable fellow who will meet a stranger on a flight to the West Coast and tell him his life story. "We sat next to each other and I was amazed," said a Washington attorney who had just such an experience during the last football season. "I'd never met the guy before and he's telling me stuff about the team I wasn't even reading in the papers."
His life is nothing less than organized confusion, a nonstop series of airline flights, 40-yard dashes, 13-mile training runs, pizza with the kids, contract negotiations with 270-pound linemen, forgotten telephone messages and one-night scouting stands in towns you never heard of.
"What you see is what you get," says his friend, Mike Allman, the Redskin director of personnel. "You couldn't make up a guy like Bobby Beathard. He's an original."
And now, Beathard also is a survivor, the clear winner of a power struggle with Jack Pardee that began almost from the first day Beathard was hired in February 1977, less than a month after Redskins president Edward Bennett Williams announced that Pardee would succeed George Allen as the head coach.
Pardee is gone now, fired in January after a 6-10 season. This after the team's owner, Jack Kent Cooke, boldly predicted in training camp that a Super Bowl appearance was a realistic expectation.
Williams, too, is removed from the seat of power. He is still listed as the team president, still owns 14 percent of the stock, still occupies the box above the 50-yard line at RFK Stadium.
But this is Jack Kent Cooke's football team. And Beathard is Cooke's man, at least in the eyes of many fans who hold him responsible for the rift -- the now infamous "philosophical differences" that led to Pardee's firing.
Beathard is his own man, always has been, always will be. "I'm not a person who's going to stay around a job just for the sake of security," he says. "If I can't do it here, I can do it somewhere else. I'm not a yes man. I have opinions, and I'll express them. That's just the way I am."
With the league draft coming up in 16 days, Beathard will have a chance to make the first big personnel additions to the Redskins roster since prevailing over Pardee. He's eager for the opportunity.
"People are going to be excited about what will happen to this team," he says. "There is no doubt in my mind we are going to succeed. It [the draft] is going to play a big part in our growth."
The ideal job for Bobby Beathard? "He would love to be the guy who runs the pool at one of those large hotels in Miami Beach," says Allman.
"No," says Beathard. "Not in Miami Beach. In California."
But as much as Beathard thrives on sun and surf, he already has what he calls the best job around. "Football is my whole life," he says. "It's all I've ever wanted to do. Why? Because it's fun. If I had a lot of money, and I didn't have to work, I'd still want to do this.
"People ask me all the time how I keep going, but it never really gets me down. I go on vacation for a month and after a couple of weeks, I want to get back to work. I'm ready for training camp in January."
It's probably a miracle, however, that Beathard can find his way to training camp. If being organized were a prerequisite for being a general manager, he would be unemployed. "He's always 500 phone calls behind and running for planes," says his wife. "I don't know how he survives. Things always seem to be in a state of chaos. You should see his checkbook. But he's something. He never lets it bother him. He figures he'll take care of the important stuff and everything else will take care of itself."
Christine Beathard's lifestyle also is somewhat unusual. She is an airline flight attendant whose home base is Los Angeles. Every other month she is away from their Oakton home for long stretches, fitting in meetings with her husband during brief stopovers. In the midst of all this disarray, Beathard is composed.
Although he is notoriously outspoken, his temper tantrums are infrequent and short. He can find humor in practically every situation, although his tongue-in-cheek, dry comments sometimes are misconstrued by people who don't know him.
He's the original sunshine boy, all smiles and laughs. "He must have 50 friends who would do anything for him," Christine says, "and he must know someone in every city in the country."
Beathard loathes formality and protocol. The first time he met Cooke at Redskin Park, he was dressed in his usual office attire: running shorts, running shoes and a T-shirt. Cooke, the most proper of multimillionaires with impeccable speech and manners, seemed to love it. "At least he realized it was me," Beathard says.
And when the job becomes too much for him, he runs. Beathard puts in as many as 65 miles a week, often working out twice a day. He'll leave a waiting room full of visitors and a telephone jammed with calls to do his road work. He has always been a runner but only lately has he stuck to an exacting schedule. That leaves him little time to pursue his other interests: American history and tennis.
His diet and his health foods complement his running. "The first time I ever had breakfast with him," Allman says, "he took out all these health foods, you know, Euell Gibbons on the half shell. I reached for the salt and he grabbed my wrist and said, 'Remember, salt is the silent killer.'"
Other than an occasional slip, Beathard hasn't eaten meat in eight years. He says he underwent a natural transition from a diet that included mostly fish and vegetables. Now his kitchen is a natural foods center, and he keeps cans of sardines, bananas and other assorted snacks in his office desk.
"Everyone gets up early around here and tries to eat breakfast before he does so they don't have to look at what he eats," says Christine. "He can only make two things, french toast and this thing he calls seven-grain cereal. You should see what he puts in it: apples and raisins and yogurt and applesauce, beans, anything he sees around the kitchen. It looks horrible.
"He says he doesn't like sweets, but you should see what he does to oatmeal cookies and cheesecake. He's sly about it. He'll say, 'Oh, let me try one," and then he keeps wondering why he's eating them as he shoves them down one after another."
Beathard always seems to get himself into precarious situations. Once he tagged along with Allman, Bum Phillphs (then an assistant coach with San Diego) and Stan West, a St. Louis scout, to a country bar in Houston. Theirs was the only car in the parking lot. Everyone else drove a pickup.
"Bum loves to play jokes, so when Stan, who is a big man, goes to sit down, he pulls out his chair from under him" Allman recalls. "Well, Stan tumbles down and sets off a domino thing where a bunch of beers get knocked over. All of a sudden, everyone is glaring at us, especially at Bobby, who realizes we are in trouble.
"Bobby just turned and walked to the bar and ordered $20 worth of beer. He hand delivered it to anyone who wanted one. Bobby kept saying, 'You gotta beer? Want another? They're free, take one.' He knew everyone in the place by the time we left."
But for all of Beathard's surface naivete -- he even runs with a mouth-piece because someone once told him it will improve his speed -- he can be a tough, no-nonsense boss. He has the utmost confidence in his ability and he isn't afraid to make quick, lasting decisions. He relies on a good memory and a nutured instinct that has fueled a meteoric ascent in his highly competitive field of scouting. He trusts people, but he also will carry a grudge against anyone who crosses him.
"Bobby isn't afraid of anyone or awed by anyone," his wife says. "Sometimes he is just too open and honest and it can hurt him. Yet he seems to be able to shrug it off. He's got everything in its proper niche. Anyone else would collapse with the schedule he keeps. He just keeps rolling along, like it's everyone else who is leading the unusual life."
Bobby Beathard was born in Zanesville, Ohio, and spent the first four years of his life there before his parents moved the family west, to El Segundo, Calif., a half mile from the Pacific.
"Oh my, he loved the beach," said his mother Dorothy Dorothy, who lives in the San Diego suburb of Oceanside with Bobby's dad, also named Bob, a retired tile factory manager. "He loved the water, he loved to swim. He surfed. He did all the things California kids dids. And he was a real good child, full of mischief, sure, but never any problem."
Beathard did not play organized football until his sophomore year at El Segundo High School. By the middle of that first high school season, he was the starting single-wing tailback. He accepted a football scholarship from Louisiana State.
"He went there and started summer football practice," his mother said. "But Bobby got homesick. He missed California, so he came back, enrolled at El Camino Junior College for a year and went on to Cal-Poly [San Luis Obispo]."
Beathard played for three years on the Cal-Poly varsity, first as a reserve running back in 1956, then as the starting quarterback and the starting defensive back in 1957 and 1958. Cal-Poly had back-to-back 9-1 seasons those two years, and Beathard, according to his coach, Leroy Hughes, was the major reason why.
"He was a very fine quarterback who could also run with the football," hughes said. "But he also was a great defensive back. That was the day of one-platoon football, and Bobby really could do everything. We only had 35 guys on the squad. John madden, [now] the Oakland coach, was on his team as a lineman. We had another quarterback, Tommy Klosterman, the brother of the Rams' general manager, and we used him more in passing situations. But Bobby was the starter. He was a great kid, a very loyal kid. He'd do anything we asked him to do. He lived and breathed the game I guess he still does."
Madden recalled Beathard as "one of those real tough hard-nosed guys. He was little, but he really could throw the football. A lot of guts -- kind of a Billy Kilmer-type."
Beathard was not drafted by the National Football League when he graduated in 1959, though he signed with the Redskins as a free agent. He didn't last long. He competed for a position with Eddie LeBaron, Ralph Guglielmi and Eagle Day. He did manage to hook on with the Los Angeles Chargers of the American Football League as a defensive back in 1961, but he was released at the end of the pre-season. "He was just too damned small to play quarterback," Madden said. "But if he'd had a real good shot, I bet he'd have made it."
Beathard began selling insurance, then chemcial supplies. He started an airplane paint-stripping business with a friend, and continued to play semi-pro football until he signed on as a part-time scout with the Kansas City Chiefs, working the western states.
Beathard stayed with the Chiefs for three years, and during that time also spent one three-month period as an aide to Al Davis, then the commissioner of the AFL. The Chiefs finally hired him as a full-time scout in 1967.
One of his first discoveries was kicker Jan Stenerud, whom the Chiefs drafted from Montana State as a future pick in 1966. "I gave myself five years to become a personnel director or I was going to quit," Beathard said. In 1968, he was hired as a scout by the Atlanta Falcons, and there, he says, "I really learned what this business was all about." He learned it from Tom Braatz, still the Falcons' personnel director. "tom sent me all over the country," Beathard said, "and a lot of the things I do now I picked up from Tom. It was a great experience."
Great, except that in 1970 Beathard's first marriage broke up after 10 years, and he says now that his nomadic experience was partly to blame. His four children lived on the West Coast with his ex-wife. When he moved to Miami in 1972, the Dolphins agreed that he could fly home at least once a month to see his children. In 1977, when he came to Washington, the three boys -- Kurt, now 18, Jeff, 16, and Casey, 15 -- moved East to live with him. His daughter Jaime, 12 stayed in California.
"Bobby's greatest achievement," Allman says, "could be the way he has stayed so close to his kids. He adores them, and they have a great relationship with him. They are great kids and he is heck of a father, despite his crazy lifestyle."
In 1972, Beathard was still working for the Falcons when he read that Joe Thomas was leaving as personnel director of the Miami Dolphins. When he arrived home from a scouting trip, Falcon coach Norm Van Brocklin told him Don Shula had called.
After the draft, Beathard flew to Miami, stayed in Shula's home and was offered the job as the Dolphins' personnel director. He had fulfilled his five-year plan.
The record books say that from 1974 to 1977, when Beathhard was in charge of the Dolphin draft, he picked 23 players in the first six rounds who made the Miami roster. In his last year, eight of his first 11 choices made the final 43-man team.
The record also shows that only six of the 53 players Beathard drafted from 1975 to 1977 are with the Dolphins now, though another seven were on other NFL teams last season. Several of his top Miami picks -- center Chuck Bradley, offensive tackly Darryl Carlton, tight end Loaird McCreary and running back Stan Winfrey -- were marginal players, leading some to suggest that Beathard may not be the genius Howard Cosell and others think he is. Shula is not among those critics.
"Bobby did a real fine job for us," Shula said. "He's a guy with a great eye for talent -- there's no question about that. Sometimes he would draft a guy we all agreed on, but it just didn't work out. That happens with every team in the league. 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."
Nor was Beathard averse to arguing with Shula. "We went back and forth on a lot of guys," Shula said. "That's the way it should be. He won some, and he lost some, like anybody else. But he was never afraid to speak his convictions on a player. It was his job to find the players, but he knew that I made the ultimate decision. He didn't always agree, but we had a fine working relationship."
The same could not be said for Beathard's relationship with Dolphins owner Joe Robbie. Almost from the beginning, Beathard felt Robbie didnot appreciate the scouts who worked under him. Beathard constantly fought to get his men raises and working conditions comparable to those of their peers around the league. Beathard finally asked Robbie if he could tell the rest of the NFL his scouts were available. Robbie agreed, Beathard sent out the word and within a day one scout had a new job and a $9,000 raise, another had a new job and a $6,000 raise. Robbie was furious, but the scouts had already joined their new teams.
"In fairness to Joe Robbie," says another NFL executive, "You have to remember that before Bobby got there, Joe Thomas ran the operation and he did it mostly himself. Robbie was used to operating that way, so I don't think he really understood what Bobby was doing, why the scout were se important. Thomas had built him a pretty good team one way, but the game was changing, and that was the problem. With Bobby, though, it was a matter of principle. That's why he left."
Beathard quit the Dolphins in 1977. He was leaning toward accepting another personnel job with the Buffalo Bills when Edward Bennett Williams called. "Actually, I really didn't show much interest when Mr. Williams called," Beathard says, "But Shula told me what kind of guy Ed was, so I decided to talk to thim. I came up here, met with him and I really got excited about the job. Three days later they offered it to me, and that was it."
Beathard was intrigued by the Redskin job -- as Williams described it -- because it meant he could continue scouting. He says he has never been interested in the business end of the operation and never wanted to be a coach.
Like everything else he does, Beathard does not run with the pack when he travels looking for players. Some scouts, for example, will book flights months in advance to make their appointed rounds. Beathard has his schedule in his head, and will pop off on a moment's notice to watch an athlete work out, putting him through drills and timing dashes to try to evaluate his ability.
He also prefers, for the most part, to go it alone. Many scouts travel in groups, meeting their friends along the circuit, trading gossip and 40-yard dash times on prospects they've seen -- one reason there really are not that many "sleepers" left in the draft.
"He works a hell of a lot harder at it than people realize," says Allman, adding that Beathard is particularly gifted at finding wide receivers and running backs. "He has total recall. He can tell you what he saw on films three and four weeks ago. He's not a naverick, but he's a hustler. He doesn't necessarily always go along with the reputation guy, an all-American guy. He'll always look beyond the facade."
Dick Steinberg, the former personnel director of the New Orleans Saints and one of Beathard's closest friends, says, "Bobby is different that most of us in the way he operates. He's not structured or organized. But he's always there when it counts.
"There's something else that's different. When I look at a player, I realize there are some guys who can probably make it in the league, guys who won't be great players but probably can play in the league. With Bobby, it's either black or white. Can he play, or can't he play?
". . . But Bobby does fine. There's no question he's one of the most respected people out there. He's got a knack for it. He can find people, always has. He's effective, especially with free agents, and everybody loves him. A great personality. You think you're going to dinner with him and another guy, and all of a sudden there's 15 people at the table. He's a character, no question. Very unique."
In late December, when Jack Kent Cooke still was deciding the fate of both his coach and general manager, Beathard held a family meeting.
"We may have to take a pay cut and take a job that isn't as good as this one," he told his stunned family, "but I can't stay with the Redskins under the present conditions. If Mr. Cooke decides to keep both Jack [Pardee] and myself, I'm going to have to look for another job."
Months later, sitting in the living room of his house, Beathard is reluctant to dwell on that moment, or about Pardee's firing.
"Jack has been above board about the whole thing and I have tried to be too," he said. "Neither one of us want to get into a spitting match with each other. What is done is done."
To Beathard, once again, the Pardee episode had become a matter of principle.
His relationship with the Redskins had reached a crucial point, similiar to what had happened with the Dolphins three years before. He felt powerless to influence Pardee, and he felt powerless to stop the Redskin slide. If he stayed with Pardee any longer, he would be condoning what was happening.
He had wanted to be a general manager, but not as the job had evolved in Washington. Many viewed him solely as a glorified personnel man, a super-scout. Certainly that was the role Pardee expected him to play. Beathard, however, wanted what he calls a "team effort" where staff and scouts communicate openly, where he could walk into the head coach's office and know his opinions were considered and important and needed, where his views and the views of those around him were strikingly similar. That was how Shula had operated.
"I have very strong convictions about the way to build and run a team," Beathard said. "To get there, I like to have enough input on the ideas that I think are essential to our success."
Beathard could have remained silent. He was working on a new three-year contract that gave him job security, he was on cordial terms with Cooke and, even though the Redskins were coming off a 6-10 season, there was not an overwhelming public clamor for changes. If he pushed Cooke to decide between him and Pardee, a two-time NFL coach of the year, he was risking losing everything.
"Yeah, I could have maintained job security and let things happen that went against what I believe in," he said. "But I felt I had a responsibility to the Redskins to correct the situation. I wasn't going to stay somewhere that violated what I believe in and where we had no chance of succeeding. If I had ignored it, I wouldn't have been doing my job. I didn't want to be a general manager under these circumstances."
Beathard certainly didn't seem the type who would purposely seek a confrontation with someone as popular and powerful as Pardee. Beathard had too much of the "good old boy" spirit in him to create a split with the coach, or so it appeared both to Pardee's assistants and to many who thought they knew both men well. It would not be the last time they would misread Beathard, whose low-key personality camouflages an instinct for the jugular.
Pardee and Beathard never were enemies. They rarely argued. But their approach to football led to an unavoidable clash. Pardee, the quiet easygoing pragmatist, was conservative, a loner by design, a keeper of his own counsel. Beathard, outgoing, bubbly and adventuresome by nature, was willing to take risks, more likely to talk things out.
Although Edward Bennett Williams considered the two equal in authority, Pardee felt he was in charge of the football operations, leaving Beathard to handle the draft and sign players. Beathard thought his role was much larger.
"When I started here," Pardee said, "things were exactly the way they needed to be for a coach to win. But they changed especially when Mr. Cooke moved to Virginia [in 1979].
"Mr. Cooke believes in a strong general manager. He likes to communicate through a general manager. That's not how this was set up before. I couldn't function the way it is now."
The problems between Beathard and Pardee began almost immediately. Although the Redskins were 8-8 that first season after winning their opening six games, friends say Beathard quickly became disenchanted with Pardee's coaching ability and with his tendency to hang on to over-the-hill veterans while releasing promising youngsters. By the time Pardee was fired, these friends say Beathard questioned the coach's ability to motivate players and provide consistent leadership.
Roster decisions became a special irritation. Beathard felt too many quality players were being cut by a coaching staff that either didn't have the patience to teach or the ability to recognize potential. Athletes such as punter George Roberts, now with Miami, tight end Gregg McCrary, now with San Diego, and receiver J. T. Smith, now with Kansas City, were waived, only to become contributors with their new teams.
Last summer's training camp widened the gap between the men. Pardee kept two aging defensive tackles, Diron Talbert and Paul Smith, while releasing Chris Godfrey, a free agent rookie Beathard thought was finished, and released rookie Kevin Turner.
Beathard knew the players he favored weren't going to make the Redskins a Super Bowl team, but he was convinced the decision to keep aging players symbolized a trend toward mediocrity.
"Bobby would go to Jack and tell him how he felt about the players and Jack would disagree," said a mutual friend. "Bobby got frustrated because there was no give-and-take, and Jack thought Bobby was interfering too much. He really didn't want Bobby's imput after a while. Jack like to make up his own mind off what he observed."
By midseason, after the Redskins were 3-7, Cooke got involved. Beathard began telling both the owner and Pardee how he felt. "I never told Mr. Cooke anything that I hadn't already told Jack," Beathard said "I didn't go behind Jack's back on anything. He knew my feelings. People said I had Cooke's ear, but I didn't."
Yet, Cooke relied more on Beathard's counsel and talked less frequently with Pardee. Cooke waited until January to make his decision, after holding a series of meetings with the two men at his Upperville, Va., estate. The meetings were uncomfortable, with Beathard and Pardee both unwilling to bend.
"Bobby kept saying everything would be okay," said his wife Christine, "but from about Dec. 23, when Mr. Cooke refused to endorse Bobby, until he announced a decision, things were rough. Bobby wouldn't admit it, but he had trouble sleeping, and that never happens to him. You could tell it was eating him up."
The triumph thrust Beathard into the public eye and he has always preferred to remain in the background. It also brought harsh public criticism of his methods. One Redskin official called Beathard's maneuvers against Pardee "the most deceitful act in pro sports in this town."
Although he heatedly denies undermining Pardee, Beathard says he is willing to accept full blame for his difficulties with the coach. He told Pardee's assistants, after they were dismissed, that he was "the culprit. "He says he expects to be labeled "the bad guy and the villain." "Mr. Cooke shouldn't get the blame," he said. "All I think he did was find out both sides and then make a decision. I forced it by going to both him and Jack and telling them my feelings."
Yet Cooke, not Beathard, has received most of the criticism in the wake of Pardee's firing. Pardee may have had philosophical differences with the general manager, but it was the owner -- a strong-willed, opinionated, controversial figure in his own right -- who ultimately chose his man. For all of Beathard's influence -- and he has considerable influence with his boss -- Cooke was not forced by anyone to unload his coach.
"We worked for Jack Kent Cooke, not Bobby Beathard," said Fred O'Connor, Pardee's running back and coach last season. "Cooke made the decsion to change the structure of the organization. Bobby was always professional, and he did a good job at finding personnel.
Did he undermine Jack? I don't think so."
"O'Connor smiled, and then went on: "Like Jack said, there is new leadership now, and judgments should not be made until that leadership shows what it can do. We'll see how the Redskins do three years from now."
Beathard is aware that his life with the Redskins will never be the same.He no longer can blame Pardee for the club's difficulties.It is clearly up to him to turn this aging, under-skilled, problem-riddled team into a winner.
"The only way to judge the kind of job I do is if we win or not," he said. "I still could be an idiot, but if we win things will be okay.
"I'm out on a limb, but I made that choice. I didn't want to be insulated anymore."
The irony is that Beathard, much more than Pardee, is unproven. As a personnel man, Beathard has an outstanding reputation. As a general manager, he remains a question mark. He has wheeled and dealed since coming to Washington but his trades have not been partcularly distinguished -- he made the decision to give up two number two picks for Wilbur Jackson -- and even his last horde of draft choices, the most of club has had in a decade, produced just one quality player, wide receiver Art Monk, the number one selection.
Nor has he ever settled on a consistent way to resurrect the club from the damage left by George Allen. There has been a haphazard touch to his three years, mixed with a bit of stubbornness, especially in his refusal to negotiate last summer with fullback John Riggins. When Beathard wouldn't consider Riggins' demand for more money, the player stayed home in lawrence, Kan. But at least Beathard is finding football fun again. He can laugh and joke with Joe Gibbs, his handpicked successor to Pardee, and he can talk about "how things are already different around here."
This is his team, his coach, his reputation at stake.
"I really never wanted it any other way," he said.