The Chargers will be part of the festivities in Canton for the second straight year as longtime GM Bobby Beathard was elected as part of 2018’s Hall of Fame class.
Beathard was elected as a contributor, which is a category created in 2014 for individuals who made “outstanding contributions to professional football in capacities other than playing or coaching.”
He’ll enter the Hall of Fame this summer along with LB Robert Brazile, S Brian Dawkins, G Jerry Kramer, LB Ray Lewis, WR Randy Moss, WR Terrell Owens and LB Brian Urlacher, who were also elected on Saturday.
Beathard spent 11 seasons as Washington’s GM from 1978-88. Under his tenure, the Redskins made five playoff appearances and captured a pair of Super Bowl titles (XVII, XXII).
He then came to the Bolts, and in 10 years heading the front office, Beathard drafted, evaluated and traded his way into talent that would ultimately lift the franchise to its first Super Bowl appearance.
Already considered one of the best eyes for talent the game has ever seen over his 38-year NFL career, what Beathard did for the Chargers, guiding them to a Super Bowl appearance while adding the likes of Junior Seau, Stan Humphries and Natrone Means among others, is the stuff of legend.
“A few years into our ownership, I remember my dad talking with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle,” said Controlling Owner and Chairman of the Board Dean Spanos. “He told Pete that he was struggling with how to get us over the hump, how to make the team better. He asked him what he should do. Pete said that you have to go out and hire the best GM that you can, and he needs to be your guy. My dad asked him for a couple examples. Pete gave a few, but the name that stuck with my dad was Bobby Beathard. We ended up hiring a GM in 1987 but just a couple years later, Bobby left the Redskins. When he became available, we had to hire him. And we did. Bobby came to work for us in 1990, and he changed the entire organization.”
From the moment he arrived, Beathard changed the culture in the locker room as well as the trajectory of the franchise. His presence is perhaps best symbolized by his first draft choice with the Bolts – Junior Seau.
In 1992, Beathard traded for a quarterback he knew from his Washington days, Stan Humphries, and hired Bobby Ross as head coach. That year, the team made their first postseason appearance since 1982. They did so by overcoming an 0-4 start to the season, showcasing the resilient character Beathard cultivated in the locker room.
Then, in 1994, the team made the Super Bowl.
“In that four-year period of the team, he really changed the dynamic of our franchise entirely,” Spanos said. “He was a very good scout, and he put together a great scouting program. That revolutionized our thinking on everything as far as how you approach football. He changed the entire player personnel program and turned over most of the players. Our whole organization changed so quickly. He knew what a winner looked like, as you saw with the Redskins winning those two Super Bowls, and he called upon that to build a really good franchise for us.”
The decision to hire Bobby Ross was also instrumental.
“Beathard helped create a family environment for our organization and team,” Spanos continued. “It was the first time we saw the players all be together like that. It was very important, and he had a good sense on finding the right coach to create that feeling between the staff and players in Bobby Ross. There’s a fine line you need as a coach, and bringing in Bobby Ross was a key thing for us. That really changed everything.”
Then there’s Stan Humphries, who was buried on the Redskins depth chart. Beathard was a big fan of the quarterback, who he selected in the sixth round of the 1988 draft while with Washington. So, on Aug. 12, 1992, he pulled the trigger on a deal that brought Humphries to the Bolts in exchange for a third-round pick.
“When I got here, I saw he brought what he had done with the Redskins to the Chargers,” Humphries recalled. “He changed the climate. He changed the way, the feeling and belief in what the team could (accomplish). He brought in coaches, scouts and players that changed the culture. I think it’s still in that direction today because of the way he changed it.”
As for the landmark deal that landed him with the Chargers, having someone of Beathard’s ilk believe in Humphries meant the world to him.
“He was an unbelievable evaluator of talent in all his years with the Redskins and Chargers,” the quarterback recalled 26 years after the trade. “I think it takes a special person to see some talents that not everyone else can see. It seemed he always used to find a lot of guys from small schools that maybe nobody ever heard of. And then a lot turned out to be All Pros and even Hall of Famers. Bobby drafted me with the Redskins and then brought me to the Chargers, so he saw a lot in me. I owe him a lot.”
The Bolts tasted success in 1992 with their first playoff appearance in 11 seasons.
They had the head coach and the quarterback, but there was one more piece missing from the equation.
“Bobby had a very clear mindset of how he wanted to build this team,” Spanos said. “He believed in the ‘Hogs’ mentality from the Redskins, which was build that big offensive line and get a *big, *heavy duty running back. Guys who were 240, 250 pound running backs. Really, he wanted to establish the identity of the team.”
Enter Natrone Means.
Beathard selected the bruising running back in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft. One year later, he carried the rock 343 times for 1,350 yards and 12 touchdowns as his Pro Bowl season helped lead the Bolts to the Super Bowl.
“Honestly, my memories of that year are really mostly team oriented,” Means recently recalled. “I didn’t focus on things I had done individually, because obviously without all those guys on the offensive unit, those things wouldn’t be possible. So when I think of that year, I don’t think about what I accomplished personally. I think of the guys. I think about how close we were. I think about how much fun we had together, and how much we cared for one another. That was a (unique) closeness, and that is what sticks out in my mind.”
Overall, being the architect of the 1994 Chargers who won the AFC that season and appeared in the Super Bowl is an important, defining piece of Beathard’s legacy. It’s a legacy that is far reaching and truly impacted the game’s past, present and future.
“I’ll be excited for him if he gets in, and I think it’s well deserved for what he’s brought to the National Football League,” Humphries said. “Not only to the teams that he’s been involved with, but for the whole league. It’s one of those deals you either step up to the plate and catch up to what he’s doing, or you get left behind. For all the things that he’s been a part of, from winning Super Bowls and helping lead our Chargers team to the Super Bowl, I think it’ll be well deserved.”