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Former Chicago Bears executive Bill Tobin passes away


Longtime Chicago Bears executive Bill Tobin passed away Friday at the age of 83.

Tobin joined the Bears in 1975 as director of pro scouting and held that position until being promoted to director of player personnel in 1984. He was later elevated to vice president of personnel in 1986 and remained in that role through 1992.

During Tobin's 18 seasons in Chicago, the Bears captured six NFC Central Division championships (1984-88, 1990), qualified for the playoffs an additional three times as a wild card (1977, 1979, 1991) and won Super Bowl XX to cap a magical 1985 campaign.

"Bill was relentless in pursuing a single goal: making the Bears better," said chairman George H. McCaskey. "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."

During Tobin's tenure in Chicago, the Bears had two of their best drafts in franchise history. In 1975, they selected nine eventual starters, beginning with Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton at No. 4 overall. The others were defensive end Mike Hartenstine in the second round, cornerback Virgil Livers in the fourth, guard Revie Sorey in the fifth, quarterback Bob Avellini and linebacker Tom Hicks in the sixth, defensive tackle Roger Stillwell in the ninth, safety Doug Plank in the 12th and fullback Roland Harper in the 17th.

The 1983 draft produced seven eventual starters who two years later would help the Bears win the Super Bowl. That class included Hall of Fame tackle Jimbo Covert and receiver Willie Gault in the first round, cornerback Mike Richardson in the second, safety Dave Duerson in the third, guard Tom Thayer in the fourth and Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent and guard Mark Bortz in the eighth.

After Dent was chosen, Tobin said that the Tennessee State product was the best pure pass rusher he had graded in the draft. Dent wasn't picked until the eighth round because he hadn't played against top competition in college and weighed just 224 pounds due to a problem with his teeth that limited what he could eat.

Dent emerged as a superstar in his second season, setting a Bears record with 17.5 sacks in 1984 and then leading the NFL with 17.0 sacks for the Super Bowl champions in 1985.

As vice president of personnel, Tobin was a de facto general manager, responsible for all personnel moves and conducting the draft.

After leaving the Bears, Tobin served as Indianapolis Colts general manager (1994-96) and Detroit Lions director of player personnel (2001-02). He joined the Cincinnati Bengals as a scouting consultant in 2003 and worked in the team's player personnel department through 2022. Tobin's son, Duke, has been part of the Bengals' player personnel department since 1999 and is currently the club's director of player personnel.

Bill Tobin and his brother, Vince, who was Bears defensive coordinator from 1986-92, grew up in Missouri. After playing running back at the University of Missouri, Bill was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the 1963 NFL Draft. But he opted to join the American Football League's Houston Oilers. As a rookie, he appeared in 10 games with eight starts, rushing for 271 yards and four touchdowns on 75 carries and catching 13 passes for 173 yards and one TD.

Tobin then headed north, playing for the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos in 1964-65.