Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke was baffled by general manager Bobby Beathard's choice of a coach.
"Who the hell is Joe Gibbs?" Cooke asked.
"Trust me," said Beathard regularly.
The team started 0-3. Cooke was livid and threatened Beathard with firing both coach and GM if they lost another game. They lost again and the pair hid from Cooke the next week.
Washington then fell to 0-5. Beathard was sure Cooke was firing him. Somehow, the Squire proved patient and the team finished 8-8. One year later, Washington won its first of two Super Bowls under Beathard before departing for the San Diego Chargers where he could surf regularly.
Gibbs was credited with the dynasty that later included a third championship under Beathard's assistant Charley Casserly. But, Beathard was the genius that delivered the franchise's greatest success. While Cooke hogged the TV cameras, Beathard could be seen smiling in the background.
Beathard died on Monday at age 86 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's. It was an incredible life that included seven conference titles and four Super Bowl victories over 35 years in the NFL. Not bad for a guy who held up his wedding until halftime of a preseason game, then ran back to watch the second half. Beathard was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
Hired by interim team president Edward Bennett Williams in 1978 after a successful scouting career with the Miami Dolphins and Don Shula, Beathard stayed 11 seasons in Washington. He then ran San Diego from 1990-2000 before retiring, taking the Chargers to the Super Bowl in his third year. A five-time champion body surfer and marathoner, Beathard chose the West Coast to enjoy the outdoors.
Beathard was the polar opposite of analytics. Forget 40 times – he found ballers. Beathard often traded Washington's first rounders for later picks, though he selected Pro Football Hall of Famers Darrell Green and Art Monk in the first. The 1983 championship included 26 free agents mixed with a phenomenal 1981 draft that included Hall of Famer Russ Grimm, Mark May, Dexter Manley, Charlie Brown, Darryl Grant and Clint Didier.
Beathard also found an undrafted defensive lineman in 1981 while telling Gibbs to play him at offensive tackle. Gibbs balked, but Beathard held final say over the roster and Joe Jacoby was part of four Super Bowl teams and three titles as an anchor of the famed "Hogs."
The 1987 championship was also Beathard at his finest. With a player strike looming, Beathard and Casserly gained contact information on players released on the final preseason cutdown so they could be quickly re-signed if regulars walked. After players gained two paychecks to fund their strike, Beathard and Casserly signed a replacement team that went 3-0, including a Monday night victory over the Dallas Cowboys with a number of returning regulars.
The 3-0 run was critical for home-field postseason advantage after finishing 11-4. Washington later beat Denver in the Super Bowl, partly thanks to two playoff games at RFK Stadium.
The 1987 title was a bridge between the first and last championships with the final one coming in 1991 after Beathard departed, though the core of the roster was still his. Without Beathard and Casserly's hustle in 1987, maybe that decade wouldn't have been a dynasty.
Beathard nearly returned to Washington. Owner Dan Snyder made an offer with a one-hour expiration. A lawyer called Beathard every 10 minutes warning of the deadline. After 30 minutes, Beathard said forget it.
After all, legends don't listen to wannabes.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.