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Allen's aging veterans had missed the playoffs in 1977. They hadn't won a postseason game since making the Super Bowl after the 1972 season. Beathard echoed the traditional personnel man's cry—new blood—but the coach in 1978, Jack Pardee, had been one of Allen's Over the Hill Gang. And a whole lot of draft choices weren't available anyway because they had been traded—seven in '78 and five in '79.
Beathard's first pick in 1978, Florida halfback Tony Green, in the sixth round, was a bull's-eye. He made the 1979 Pro Bowl as a kick returner. The next year Beathard found two linebackers, Rich Milot and Monte Coleman, in the draft, and a third, Neal Olkewicz, in the free-agent market. All would become regulars. With the only draft choice the Skins had in the first six rounds that year they chose tight end Don Warren, who later started in the three Redskins Super Bowls. The trading that has become Beathard's signature produced an All-Pro cornerback, Lemar Parrish, and Coy Bacon, Washington's leading sacker from 1978 through '81. In 1978, Beathard gave the Cincinnati Bengals a No. 1 draft for the pair. The parade continued. The Skins' first No. 1 pick in 12 years, Art Monk, in 1980, became an All-Pro.
Youngsters were finding their way into the Washington lineup, but not fast enough for Beathard. The Redskins finished 8-8 in 1978, 10-6 in '79 and 6-10 in '80. They were an old team, with 15 members who were 30 or older, including 10 starters. Beathard and Pardee finally locked horns. Beathard felt that the coaching staff was taking the easy way out, going with veteran players and giving his young talent the short look. In 1980, Pardee kept a pair of ancient defensive tackles, Diron Talbert, 36 at the time, and Paul Smith, 35, and cut one of Beathard's free-agent rookie finds, Chris Godfrey, who became a starting guard for the Super Bowl Giants.
In December 1980, Beathard told Christine and the kids, "I can't stay with the Redskins under the present conditions. If Mr. Cooke decides to keep both Jack and me, I'm going to have to look for another job." Faced with the decision, Cooke went with his general manager, whose next move was to recommend that Cooke hire Gibbs.
Beathard's 1981 draft produced three future Pro Bowlers, guard Russ Grimm, Manley and wideout Charlie Brown. In the 12th round he got tight end Clint Didier, who's still a Redskins regular. That same year Beathard visited his old school, Cal Poly, and came back with a free-agent linebacker, Mel Kaufman, who has started for Washington since 1982.
Low-round draft picks, free agents—Beathard loves them. The '83 Super Bowl team had 26 free agents. Eleven more of those Super Bowl Skins were drafted in the fifth round or lower. Beathard reached into the USFL supplemental draft of 1984 and found Gary Clark, who became an All-Pro wideout. Two years ago he gave New England a third-round draft for the rights to USFL wide receiver Ricky Sanders, whose 193 receiving yards against the Denver Broncos set a Super Bowl record last January.
There have been misses, including a succession of dismal No. 2 picks. In 1985 he traded a No. 2 for Los Angeles Raider wideout Malcolm Barnwell, who turned out to be a bust. Says Young of the Giants, "Everyone knows we're in the guessing business. All you're trying to do is keep your percentages good, and Bobby's are excellent."
"He came to practice at our place last fall," says Utah offensive coordinator Jack Reilly. "He looked at one of our tight ends. Craig McEwen, and said. 'That kid can play for us right now.' We hadn't even given him a scholarship, but Bobby took him to camp as a free agent, and he caught seven passes in the strike game against Dallas."
There's more to being a successful general manager than having a hot hand in the personnel game. There's the mesh, the coordination with owner and coach and with your own staff. Beathard is lucky in his owner. Cooke has never closed the purse. Witness the $6 million he spent last spring to acquire Chicago Bears linebacker Wilber Marshall. "All I ever ask Bobby," Cooke says, "is, 'Will the player help us win?' "
When he recommended Gibbs as coach in 1981, Beathard made sure he was a man he could work with. "We're in this together," Gibbs says. "If Bobby can't do it, we're going to sink. Likewise for me. The rules between us are these: I input who we draft, but the final say is his. He inputs who we keep, but the final say is mine. On trades, Bobby decides who we get, I decide who we let go. Sure, we argue sometimes, but it never goes out of the room."