Last week's draft provided an example of how reputations build on themselves in the National Football League.
That is, when a guy with a good reputation does something that looks questionable on the surface, everyone calls it smart; when a guy with a reputation for bungling does the same thing, everyone snickers.
Bobby Beathard, who has managed to put the Washington Redskins into the Super Bowl three times this decade, used his first pick, the last one of the second round, to take a kicker, Chip Lohmiller of Minnesota. Then he traded away a pick to move up in the third round to draft a kick returner named Mike Oliphant from Puget Sound.
The consensus: "Bobby must know what he's doing, he always does."
But when George Boone of the Phoenix Cardinals, who has botched his top picks the last four years, took punter Tom Tupa of Ohio State on the third round, there were the usual chuckles. When Boone used the standard line--"We feel good that Tupa was there"--they remembered John Lee, the UCLA kicker who didn't pan out after Boone took him on the second round two years ago.
Some of the criticism stems from the unorthodox way Boone goes about his business. He doesn't give the coaching staff any input and, unlike almost every other personnel man, never interviews prospective draftees before he takes them.
But Boone, who has drafted such players as Stump Mitchell and Vai Sikahema on the eighth and ninth rounds, defended not only the choice of Tupa, but Ken Harvey, the California linebacker he took with the 12th pick of the first round--higher than most people expected Harvey to go.
"We feel pretty good about what we've done," Boone says. "I've taken a lot of heat for some of the picks in the past. Some were good picks, some turned out bad. I think you have to look at the total picture, instead of just one guy from one particular year."
The biggest surprise of the first round was the Miami Dolphins' pick of Eric Kumerow, a defensive lineman-linebacker from Ohio State. The Dolphins, who desperately need a pass rusher, say Kumerow is it, although most pre-draft estimates had him a second- or third-rounder.
But Kumerow was chosen by Don Shula, long since certified as a genius. So there were fewer questions than there might have been if someone such as Boone had done it.
The player who probably fared worst from the draft was Tim Vesling, a kicker from Syracuse.
Vesling, a good medium-range kicker who never missed an extra point in college and made 15 of his 18 field goal attempts last year, was drafted on the 12th round by the Indianapolis Colts, who already have all-pro Dean Biasucci.
So instead of becoming a free agent, Vesling is tied to a team that will probably cut him. He'll also get less money than he would have as a free agent able to choose among several competing teams.
The Colts are probably hoping that he looks good enough in exhibitions to trade for a higher pick to someone desperate for a kicker. But teams know that no one will keep two kickers, so they generally wait for a Vesling or some other prospect to get cut.
But Vesling has at least one good precedent.
Two years ago, Biasucci beat out Raul Allegre for the Indianapolis job. Allegre was cut and eventually signed with the New York Giants, who got him an extra $84,000 by winning the Super Bowl.
Paul Salata, the former San Francisco 49er who runs "Irrelevant Week," a running party in Newport Beach for the last player taken in the draft, had a pretty good idea this year who he was going to get.
And he did--Jeff Beathard, a running back from Southern Oregon State who just happens to be the son of Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard, who had the 333rd and last pick.
As it turns out, Bobby Beathard worked out an agreement a couple of months ago with the Rams to exchange 12th-round picks, with the Rams getting an additional 11th-rounder next year. Then the Rams would use the last pick to take his son.
"It's always an awkward situation when you have a kid playing on his father's team, and we generally don't do that, and I decided not to make an exception to that rule," said the elder Beathard.
Bobby Beathard also appeared to have pulled rank on two Redskins assistant coaches--Dan Henning and Richie Petitbon. Each had sons who played at Maryland and went undrafted, though they also might have been taken with the last choice.
"The way I look at it, my dad did me a great favor," Jeff Beathard said. "I appreciate it a lot."
The 5-foot 11-inch, 190-pound Beathard transferred to Southern Oregon State from Towson State in Maryland. He rushed for 262 yards in 82 carries and caught 14 passes for 90 yards.
Last year, when Tampa Bay took quarterback Mike Shula, son of Miami Coach Don Shula, on the 12th round, the joke was that there would soon appear a listing under transactions.
TAMPA BAY BUCS--Cut Mike Shula, quarterback. Named Mike Shula offensive coordinator.
Mike Shula ended up sticking with the Bucs. But it wasn't such a joke considering that Mike's brother David, became Miami's offensive coordinator at age 24 after being released by the Colts several years ago.
So if heredity holds true, consider this possible listing:
RAMS--Cut Jeff Beathard, running back. Named Jeff Beathard assistant general manager.
So what was John Robinson, who likes running backs who can carry the ball 30 times a game, doing drafting the less-than-durable Gaston Green when he was said to have wanted 250-pound Craig (Ironhead) Heyward?
Word has it that John Shaw, hitherto concerned only with the financial side, had a lot to say about the Ram draft. Perhaps he saw Green, from UCLA, as money in the bank, a hometown pick who will put fans into Anaheim Stadium.
Moreover, the way Robinson was talking, it sounds less and less like the team will put his kind of team on the field. He is talking about the receiving skills of Green, a breakaway threat to team with two other high picks, Aaron Cox and Willie Anderson, both speedy wide receivers.
Whatever the reason, at least the Rams seemed to have gotten some value for the five picks in the first two rounds they received in the Eric Dickerson deal.
Their top pick of two years ago, Canadian offensive lineman Mike Schad, is now being switched to defense in a last-ditch salvage effort. Last year's top pick, Donald Evans, is going the other way--from linebacker-defensive end to fullback.
Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Chuck Noll on why he drafted four offensive linemen, three defensive linemen and two linebackers:
"If you go for the skill guys and you have a will-of-the-wisp football team, you may not make it too far. You might lose the Super Bowl by 38 points. It's still blocking and tackling that win games for you."