Bill Tobin, former NFL executive with Bears, Colts, dead at 83

Bill Tobin

CINCINNATI — Bill Tobin, a longtime NFL executive who built the Chicago Bears into a Super Bowl champion in the mid-1980s, and whose quip about ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. during the 1994 NFL draft remains a viral video clip, died Thursday, the Cincinnati Bengals announced. He was 83.

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Tobin was the Bears’ vice president of player personnel from 1986 to 1992, and as a pro scout helped build the 1985 squad that won Super Bowl XX. The Bears drafted seven starters in 1983 for the “Super Bowl Shuffle” squad that would dominate the NFL during the 1985 season with an 18-1 record, the Chicago Tribune reported.

During Tobin’s 18 seasons in Chicago, the Bears also won six division titles and reached the postseason as a wild card three times.

“Bill was relentless in pursuing a single goal: making the Bears better,” Bears Chairman George McCaskey said in a statement. “He had a keen eye for talent and he passionately advocated for players he believed in. He helped build the greatest team in NFL history -- the ‘85 Bears -- and for that we are forever grateful.”

Tobin was also the general manager of the Indianapolis Colts from 1994 to 1994 and was director of player personnel for the Detroit Lions in 2001-02, according to ESPN.

Tobin served as a scout for the Bengals from 2003 to 2022 and was the father of Duke Tobin, Cincinnati’s director of player personnel.

“He was a true NFL success story,” Bengals President Mike Brown said in a statement. “He was a good person and I considered him a good friend. With Bill, I respected everything he said. I just took it as a given. He had an eye for players and what they would develop into. If he said the guy was a good player, then he was a good player; that’s all I would need to know. We will miss him.”

Tobin had a viral moment in the 1994 NFL draft after bypassing Fresno State quarterback Trent Dilfer and choosing Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts with the fifth overall pick. The selection drew criticism from Kiper, ESPN’s draft analyst, and Tobin fired back on an ESPN interview with Chris Mortensen.

“Who the hell is Mel Kiper?” Tobin asked.

The interview, which occurred 30 years ago, is usually played around the time of the NFL draft; this year’s selection begins on April 25.

Despite the criticism, Tobin managed to draft a good crop of players at Indianapolis, including future Pro Football Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison, the Tribune reported. The 1995 Colts reached the AFC championship game before losing 20-16 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Indianapolis nearly pulled off an upset on the game’s final play when quarterback Jim Harbaugh’s desperation pass in the end zone was juggled by several players on both teams before falling incomplete.

Among the tributes to Tobin was one from Kiper.

“A sad day with the passing of Bill Tobin, an accomplished front office executive who made the NFL a better league during his decorated career,” Kiper wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Kim and I send our sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Born Feb. 16, 1941, in Burlington Junction, Missouri, Tobin was a halfback at the University of Missouri, where he was a three-year letterman from 1960 to 1962, ESPN reported. He was named the MVP of the Tigers’ 14-10 victory against Georgia Tech in the 1962 Bluebonnet Bowl. Tobin was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. He was also enshrined in the University of Missouri Hall of Fame in 1997.

Tobin played one season with the AFL’s Houston Oilers in 1963, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.

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