Bill Tobin, a longtime NFL executive who helped build the 1985 Bears championship team, has died

CHICAGO (AP) — Bill Tobin, a longtime NFL executive who helped construct the Chicago Bears' famed 1985 championship team and later built a playoff team as the Indianapolis Colts' general manager, has died. He was 83.

The Cincinnati Bengals announced Friday that Tobin had died, and the Bears also confirmed his death. Tobin spent the past two decades working for the Bengals as an area scout alongside his son Duke, the team's director of player personnel since 1999.

“He was a true NFL success story,” Bengals owner 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 joined the Bears in 1975 as their director of pro scouting and was elevated to director of player personnel in 1984. He was promoted to vice president of personnel in 1986 and remained in that role through 1992. He was Indianapolis' general manager from 1994-96 and the Detroit Lions' director of player personnel from 2001-02.

The Bears won six division titles and made the playoffs nine times in Tobin's 18 seasons. Chicago drafted franchise icon Walter Payton with the No. 4 overall pick in 1975 along with fellow Hall of Famers Dan Hampton in 1979, Mike Singletary in 1981 and Jimbo Covert and Richard Dent in 1983. Those players helped form the nucleus of the 1985 team that went 15-1 and danced all the way to the franchise's lone Super Bowl championship.

“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.”

Indianapolis made the playoffs in two of Tobin's three years, with the 1995 team advancing to the AFC championship game. The Colts drafted a pair of Hall of Famers in that period, taking Marshall Faulk in 1994 and Marvin Harrison in 1996.

A memorable moment happened when ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. criticized the Colts for drafting Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts with the No. 5 pick in 1994. In an interview later in the broadcast, Tobin asked, “Who in the hell is Mel Kiper, anyway?” Injuries limited Alberts to three seasons in the NFL.

“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 posted on X, formerly Twitter. “Kim and I send our sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Tobin and his younger brother Vince, a longtime NFL coach, grew up in northwest Missouri and played at the University of Missouri. Bill Tobin, a running back, played a season with the AFL's Houston Oilers.



Andrew Seligman, The Associated Press