Almost five years after he left Miami to rebuild the Washington Redskins, Bobby Beathard sat at his desk yesterday trying to explain to caller after caller that there is no way he can claim responsibility for constructing both of this year's Super Bowl teams.
"I don't want to begin that stuff," he said. "The last thing I'm going to do is give anyone the impression I did the job there and then left and did it here.
"I drafted some players that are still with the Dolphins, but this is Don Shula's team. As long as he is there, it will always be his team. That makes it easier for everyone else to plug in and help him."
But this is Beathard's Redskins, reconstructed in maverick fashion, despite a lack of draft choices, by using many of the skills he perfected as Shula's personnel director for six years. He still has a fondness for many of the Dolphins' players and coaches, especially Shula.
"I couldn't sleep Saturday night after we beat Dallas, and I was up at 6 a.m.," Beathard said. "So I decided to call Don and wish him luck. No, I didn't wake him; he was up. He probably couldn't sleep that well, either. I owe him so much. I wouldn't be here, in Washington, if it wasn't for him. No question about that."
Down the hall from Beathard's office at Redskin Park, another former employe of the Dolphins was working on the game plan for Super Bowl XVII. Dan Henning, now Washington's assistant head coach but for two years a top aide to Shula, was playing down any advantage his knowledge of the Dolphins might give the Redskins.
"We've played them twice since I've been here, so everyone here is familiar with their personnel," he said. "The knowledge I have is disconcerting, because I know how good they are. Besides, they have changed since I've come here."
Henning left the Dolphins for Coach Joe Gibbs' staff in part to prepare himself for a job as head coach. "I felt that at that point in time," he said, "it would be a good mix for Joe and me to be on the same staff. We were on the same page philosophically, I had spent time with Don and learned a lot, but here was a chance to be an integral part of putting a team together. Joe allowed me to be in on central decisions concerning administration, organization and personnel."
Now Henning is one of the hottest head coaching prospects in the league. Atlanta, Seattle and Kansas City have asked the Redskins for permission to talk to him about filling their vacancies. They have been told to check back after the Super Bowl.
Beathard and Henning credit Shula with teaching important lessons.
"He showed me that even though it isn't easy, you always should make clear to people exactly where they stand," Beathard said. "Be honest with them. We were able to argue and not have any hard feelings afterwards, even when he chewed me out good."
Said Henning, "The greatest thing I learned from him is thoroughness, and that was enough."
Shula hired Beathard, then a scout for Atlanta, in 1972 to replace Joe Thomas. From 1974 to 1977, Beathard picked 23 players in the first six rounds who made the roster. In his last year, eight of his first 11 choices survived the final cut.
He missed badly on some high picks, but was right on eight members, six starting, of the present team: quarterback Don Strock (No. 5, 1973), receiver Nat Moore (No. 3, 1974), linebacker Larry Gordon (No. 1, 1976), defensive end Kim Bokamper (No. 1, 1976), receiver Duriel Harris (No. 3, 1976), linebacker A.J. Duhe (No. 1, 1977) and nose guard Bob Baumhower (No. 2, 1977). He signed starting linebacker Earnie Rhone as a free agent in 1975.
"All the guys I took chances on are gone," Beathard said, with a laugh. "That taught me a lesson. A guy like Don Reese (No. 1, 1974) showed me that you can't depend on a coaching staff to change a guy. If you want to gamble, do it with a lower draft choice. Shula showed me how important it was to get intelligent, willing-to-learn players.
"Most of the guys left were easy choices. Duhe was a wild man on the field in college; he was a natural. Bokamper was an unbelievable athlete, a 245-pound guy who could run under a 4.7 40. Couldn't pass him up."
Beathard quit Miami in 1977 on principle. He feuded constantly with owner Joe Robbie over lack of compensation and working conditions for his scouts. Beathard finally asked Robbie if he could tell other teams his scouts were available. Robbie agreed, Beathard sent out word and within a day one scout had a new job and a $9,000 raise, and another had a new job and a $6,000 raise.
Edward Bennett Williams, looking for a general manager to replace George Allen--Jack Pardee had been hired as coach--signed Beathard. Forty trades later, with only nine players left (of 49) from Allen's last team, Beathard's team is preparing to meet that of his old employer.