Since he arrived on Feb 24, 1978, Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard has been among the most active wheeler-dealers in the National Football League. Last week, Beathard discussed his latest moves in an interview with Washington Post Staff Writer Leonard Shapiro.
Q. You have made some rather momentous decisions in trading Mike Thomas and cutting Chriss Hanburger, Jake Scott, Billy Kilmer and Bill Brundige in the last 10 days. Would you elaborate on the reasons for making those decisions.
A. We just felt we had to make the Redskins a better football team. My intentions are not to knock or down-grade anybody. Jack Pardee is the coach, I'm the general manager, and together we made some decisions on what had to be done.
The one thing we agreed on is that we didn't have enough football players to have a championship team. We evaluated the Redskins, and this team was unlike any team in the NFL. We had more players here with long careers than anybody in football. It's a tribute to those players that they could play that long. But you also reach a point of diminishing returns.
There comes a time when you see that there are people who are stronger, faster, quicker, with more enthusiasm, and we believe at this point, for this football team, it was better to have that kind of player around than having a veteran who is on the downside of his career. We've tried to replace those older players, and to replace those players we felt were disruptive to the program.
We're also not doing anything any other team wouldn't have done. If you talk to people from 27 other teams, I would guarantee you they'd have done the same thing we've done. If it hadn't been Jack and me, it would have been somebody else.
This wasn't some big crusade against these people. We just felt we have a chance to go with better players. It's never easy for older players to be told they aren't in your plans. But now is the time.
Q. You talk about disruptive players. Who, specifically are you referiing to?
A. I don't think it's any secret. I felt Jake (Scott) would be a disruptive factor. I like the guy socially, he comes to play on Sunday, but he's disruptive. I didn't think he was a good influence on other players. We felt he was a problem we don't need. His ability didn't outweigh the negative aspects of having him here. I think he's past the peak of his career, and we also felt that Mark Murphy is ready to play.
Mike Thomas had ability, but we felt he was not helping the football team because he wasn't going along with our program. He was a problem, and we didn't want him back.
Q. Speaking as a personnel man, would you talk specifically about the reasons for cutting Chris Hanburger?
A. I think Chris had reached the end of the line. He had a career, and his career is over. Again, I don't want it to sound like I'm knocking him. If some people in the league feel differently, they'll pick him up. But it was time for Chris to give it up.
Q.And what about Kilmer?
A. I'm not going to say that Billy couldn't help some teams under the right circumstances. Billy's age and his limited mobility certainly were factors. We'd also like to keep three young quarterbacks. Billy has a great football mind and great leadership, but we felt we'd be making amistake at his age and his limitations to think that he was the answer. In Kim McQuilken, we think we have an excellent young quarterback. We think Gary Valbuena can come in and be a third quarterback.
Q. Joe Theismann says not having Kilmer around will make it easier on him to function. Do you agree?
A. I hope so. Let's face it. There was a group on the team in the past that was pro-Billy, and they were not going to be happy unless Billy was the quarterback. This year, I hope the team will pull together more as a team instead of pulling two directions. The team knows they have to get behind the guy. We were definitely divided in loyalty last year, and I would think Joe would feel better about the situation now.
He might have a feeling of confidence that he'll be able to unite the team. But I also think the quarterback position is going to be a competitive situation, as will every position on the team. That hasn't always been the case, but this year, we feel we have a number of young, excellent prospects who can challenge for jobs.
Q. What was the role of Edward Bennett Williams (team president) in the decision to cut the old veterans?
A. Mr. Williams was always kept abreast of our feelings he went along with us on everything. Any time a decision was made to release people with guaranteed contracts of that size, he has the final say. There was no interference from Mr. Williams and there never has been. He's been 100 percent behind us. Billy's contract was guaranteed so was Jake's and Brundige's partially. Mr. Williams wanted to hear our reasons, and after we gave them, he went along.
Q. Lookin back on it now, do you regret not releasing some of these players a year ago?
A. I just think we're in a better position now to do it then we were last year at this time. We had some new guys make the team last year, and we had some backups last year who got more playing time. With those new people, and the backups, plus our draft choices and some fine free agent prospects, we're in a better position to replace some people, Last year, we went in with no replacements, so we had to live with the situation. I can tell you I have a much more positive feeling about the team this year than I did a year ago.
As I said, our camp will be competitive, I think our team speed and team quickness, our team strength and team enthusiasm will be much improved.
Q. George Allen occasionally takes potshots at you, and you fire right back. This week, he said he thought you were cutting too many people with good character, the solid-citizen types he always talked about. How would you respond?
A. Jack and his coaching staff, myself and my scouting staff, are just as interested in people with character as George ever was. Yes, George's remarks bother me, but I try not to pay too much attention to them. I just consider the source.
Q. Have you been deluged with calls and letters from outraged fans concerning your decisions on Kilmer and the rest?
A. Honest, I have not received one phone call. I'm sure we'll get letters. Of all the people, Billy is the one guy most people seemed to care about, and I don't blame them. He was a great player, and great for the Redskins.
Sure I'm concerned about fan reaction. Any town that supports the team the way this town does is so unique. But I also want to be as honest with the fans as I possibly can. I really believe most people are behind us. People understand that football players can't go on forever. That's true all around the league. The difference in Washington is that people got so used to seeing the same guys every year, that the changes we are making seem startling. But they're not. Even heroes get to the point where they can't perform the way they used to, and that's what happened here.
"We'd be making a mistake keeping them around thinking they can do the things they did five or six years ago. We need new players to do it, that's the nature of professional sports.
Q.How do you perceive the Redskin's chances this season?
A.I think we can be a contender in our division, and in he playoffs, anything can happen. We have a nucleus of good players, good skill people and good athletes. If you have that and an aggressive, physical team that doesn't make a lot of mental errors, you can have a contender.
I'm really excited about the young people we have in here right now. And Jack is in a better position to sell this group on his program.These are young people used to these kind of programs. They expect to have to do weightlifting and running in the offseason, because the're always done that in college.
You have to have people involved in that king of program and that hasn't been true around here for a long time. Players who don't get with the program will fall by the wayside. It's a demanding game, and not just during the season. And if you can't find players who will make the sacrifice, you won't win. CAPTION: Picture 1, Bobby Beathard; Picture 2, Billy Kilmer; Picture 3, Ron McDole;Chart The Redskin Ax