Bobby Beathard, Hall of Fame NFL executive with four Super Bowl rings, dies at 86

A spokesperson for the Washington Commanders said Beathard’s family told the team he died Monday at his home in Franklin, Tennessee.

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Bobby Beathard poses with his Hall of Fame trophy.

Bobby Beathard poses with his Hall of Fame trophy.

Alex Brandon/AP

Bobby Beathard, the architect of four Super Bowl-winning teams with two different organizations during his lengthy tenure in football, has died. He was 86.

A spokesperson for the Washington Commanders said Beathard’s family told the team he died Monday at his home in Franklin, Tennessee, less than a week after his 86th birthday. A cause of death was not immediately available.

Beathard was director of player personnel for two of the NFL championships by Miami in the 1970s and served as general manager for two more by Washington in the ‘80s. He also scouted for Kansas City when the Chiefs won the American Football League title and made Super Bowl I following the 1966 season and was GM with San Diego when the Chargers got there in the mid-1990s.

Part of seven teams that made the Super Bowl during his lengthy front office career, Beathard was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. Washington added him to the organization’s Ring of Honor in 2016.

“Bobby not only built winning teams throughout his career, but he also built winning cultures that lasted beyond his years with an organization,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement. “He combined an eye for talent with a special gift for working with other people. The results speak for themselves.”

Beathard also scouted for the Atlanta Falcons, but is most known for his roles with Don Shula’s Dolphins that won the Super Bowl back-to-back and then hiring coach Joe Gibbs and drafting Darrell Green, Art Monk and others during his time in Washington.

“I came to the Redskins from the Miami Dolphins, and the years at the Miami Dolphins including the ‘72 season of undefeated teams and being with Shula, I learned a lot more than I ever had up until that time about football,” Beathard said in 2016 at Washington’s training camp in Richmond, Virginia. “So I felt coming into a situation like this that I felt prepared because I never wanted to go into a situation that I felt was too big for me or where I wasn’t prepared.”

Beathard resigned from that job in 1989, before Washington won a third Super Bowl with a core he constructed, and went into TV before being hired as GM of the Chargers in 1990. He spent a decade with them, including overseeing the team that went to the Super Bowl before losing to the San Francisco 49ers, though he nearly resigned before that 1994 season because of a dispute with owner Alex Spanos.

But Spanos’ son, Dean, stepped in and was put in charge of the day-to-day operations. Beathard stayed, and the Chargers reached their only Super Bowl in franchise history.

Now owner and chairman of the Chargers, Dean Spanos in a statement called Beathard “one of the best judges of football talent in NFL history.”

“He was the best GM in football, but he was also the guy sitting on his surfboard in the ocean that you caught waves with, jogged trails alongside and chatted up in the checkout line of the local market,” Spanos said. “He was just a regular guy who happened to be anything but. Bobby was, in fact, exceptional. He was one of a kind. And he will be incredibly missed.”

Beathard in more than three decades in an NFL front office loathed first-round picks and reveled in taking chances on players from out-of-the-way colleges, a strategy that paid off along the way. In 1988, Sports Illustrated called him “The Smartest Man in the NFL” — a title he did not like.

“That was kind of embarrassing,” Beathard said in 2018 before going into the Hall of Fame. “Whoever put that in there, I told them when it first came out, ‘Well, you better go back and ask my high school and college teachers if that’s true, and I don’t think they’d agree with that.’”

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