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30 at 30: Number 26, General Manager Bill Tobin

June 21st, 2013 at 10:31 AM
By Chuck Chapman

Colts 101 is counting down the 30 most influential members of the Indianapolis Colts organization.

Our picks thus far:
30. Andrew Luck
29. Ken Dilger
28. Tarik Glenn
27. Antoine Bethea

This pick may be one of the more controversial among our 30. Bill Tobin is the first off-the-field personnel member on our list. Many outside Indianapolis may not even know he was with the Colts as their knowledge of the Colts’ front office doesn’t go back any further than Bill Polian. Bill Tobin, however, put together several of the key pieces of what would be a Super Bowl-winning team.

Tobin came to the Colts at a time when the franchise was in turmoil. Owner Bob Irsay had appointed son Jim Irsay as the club’s chief personnel executive when the team arrived in Indianapolis. The results weren’t pretty. When Bob suffered a stroke and Jim had to assume the day-to-day responsibilities of running the team, he looked to Tobin to fill the role as general manager.

Tobin forged his reputation for talent evaluation with the Chicago Bears. He is largely credited for assembling the juggernaut teams Chicago fielded in the mid-80s, finding a little-know running back named Walter Payton and finding a future Hall of Famer, Richard Dent, in the eight round of the NFL Draft.

His first draft with the Colts, however, wasn’t one that earned him praise. When Tobin chose to take Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts instead of Fresno State quarterback Trent Dilfer with the fifth pick overall, ESPN’s Mel Kiper went off on Tobin and the Colts. When confronted with Kiper’s criticism, Tobin famously quipped, “Who the hell is Mel Kiper?” (see video above).

While Kiper was clearly not a fan of Jim Harbaugh’s, Tobin had been behind him being drafted in Chicago and knew very well what he was capable of. While Alberts certainly never materialized as a worthy pick, Harbaugh certainly more than earned his place in Colts’ history, leading the team to within an eyelash of the Super Bowl and eventually being inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor.

Where Tobin may have failed with his pick of Alberts, he more than made up for that with his first pick in 1994, running back Marshall Faulk. In succeeding years, Tobin oversaw the drafting of Ken Dilger, Marvin Harrison, Tarik Glenn, Ray Buchanan and Ashley Ambrose, all of whom played large roles in the success of the Colts under Tobin and in future years under Polian.

While Bill Polian might be credited with being the “architect” of the Colts great teams of the 2000s, it was Bill Tobin who laid the foundation during his tenure as Colts general manager.

Tags: Bill Tobin, Football, Indianapolis, Indianapolis Colts, Jim Harbaugh, Marshall Faulk, Marvin Harrison, NFL, Trev Alberts

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