I’ve had this book a while, but really haven’t had a chance to show it off.
“Hail Victory” is an oral history of the Washington Redskins, written by Tom Loverro, a writer for the Washington Times. It’s smaller than Pete Golenbock’s oral history of the Cowboys, by a few hundred pages, and as a consequence, coverage of certain periods can be spotty.
But to give an example of the kinds of insights this book does have, here is a quote from page 180 talking about the beginnings of the 1982 season.
Gibbs made it clear he was going to use youngsters over veterans who didn’t produce. He cut running back Terry Metcalf, whom he had been close to from their days in Saint Louis. He made backup linebacker Rich Milot a starter, as well as rookie cornerback Vernon Dean. He cut receiver Carl Powell, a top draft choice, in favor of unheralded Alvin Garrett. He brought in veteran defensive end Tony McGee to replace Mat Mendenhal and shore up the pass rush.
I bought “Hail Victory” initially to help answer the question of George Allen’s five man line back in 1972, but it was no help there. It’s going to be a terrific help as I chase down information on my next element of interest, Bobby Beathard. And he’s interesting because Washington is the ultimate counter example of the group “A” teams I’ve been so fascinated by recently.
What’s a group “A’ team? It’s one of the four I’ve circled on this plot:
I’m thinking now there are clusters of teams with draft strategies. The four in group “A” are New England, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. I spoke about their apparent habits here. The groups “B” and “C” are unstudied so far. Group B teams are Denver and Indianapolis. Group C teams are Minnesota and the New York Giants. Left of group B are a cluster of 8 teams, that might as well be named group D for now. And down by its little lonesome, right at the 6.5 player/year line, is Washington.
My guess is that Bobby Beathard, the former general manager of the Washington Redskins, is the ultimate counterexample for the type “A” team.
Some things to note. Bobby was quarterback in college, and then a scout before he entered the NFL. He scouted for Kansas City in the later 1960s, was the director of player personnel for the Miami Dolphins during their peak, and in 1978, when Jack Kent Cooke was the majority owner of the Skins, he became their general manager.
There is an excellent interview of Bobby Beathard on the site Burgundy and Gold Obsession. There is a section from that interview that really stands out, and it’s the same kind of emphasis that Bill Billick has attributed to the Belichick era with New England. Bobby is responding to a question in this excerpt (emphasis is mine).
There should be a relationship where the personnel people and the coach are really together. We knew exactly what type of player each Redskin position coach wanted. We knew what kind (offensive line coach) Joe Bugel wanted, we knew what kind (linebackers coach) Larry Peccatiello, (defensive coordinator) Richie Petitbon wanted. I think on our first Super Bowl team we had 26 kids who weren’t drafted, we just signed them as free agents. It didn’t matter who we brought in. Those guys coached the dog out of them. When I was with (head coach) Kevin Gilbride in San Diego, he’d make up his mind before he even got to minicamp, `I don’t want that guy, I don’t want this guy, I don’t want that guy.’ And it became impossible to satisfy him with anybody. The exact opposite was Joe and his staff. Having a staff like that really helps the organization.
What’s very intriguing is this emphasis on the “back end” of the draft, or in this case, post-draft free agents. It’s also the notion that the coaches tell the scouts what kind of players to get, and the scouts go out and get them exactly those kinds of players. The fit helped make the Redskins of the 1980s successful. And in another form, it’s the same back end emphasis you see in the type “A” teams.
With regard to the best possible athlete versus need question, Bobby said this:
Sometimes you get into that situation when you have the philosophy which we did, you have to take the best one on the board, regardless of position. We always hoped when we picked there would be two or three good players available at different positions, so you’d at least get to take closer to your need. But if there’s just one there, and he’s outstanding, and you have a great grade on the guy and the next athlete on the board doesn’t have that kind of grade, you have to go with the highest-graded player.
And that seems to be a common theme, BPA of course, but need when there are two or three attractive alternatives.