Tobin stayed the course he’s been on since he was a ball boy at the ’80s Bears training camps, where his dad, Bill Tobin, built one of the NFL’s greatest teams as Papa Bear George Halas’ director of player personnel. As Duke Tobin went on to quarterback Hersey High School to an Illinois state title, his dad was celebrated for producing the legendary 1985 Bears with a small but talented staff.
Now nearly 40 years later, Tobin, 81, who scouts for the Bengals, is hearing similar praise for Duke building what some consider to be the youngest and deepest roster in the NFL.
“The only guy I’ve really modeled myself after is my dad,” Duke Tobin says. “My dad allowed people to work. He didn’t micromanage. He would give directives and let people work. Everything I’ve said (about scouting) comes from him.
“The scout has to believe the club values his work. If you’re just a number and what you’re doing isn’t valued by the club, it’s really folly. My dad believed scouts are very valuable and they should be treated as such and the information needs to be treated as such … He wanted information developers, not information gatherers … I’ve never been part of a big structure and my dad never had a big structure. He had guys he believed in and trusted … We’ve expanded, but if it’s not broke, and our guys are producing and we believe in them and feel it’s good to have a close-knit group. When they get more responsibility, it’s because they earned it.”
In the last five years or so Tobin has lured scouts with a rich range of about five and a half decades of varying backgrounds between his dad and area scout Andrew “A.J.” Johnson, at 28, the youngest in the department. Christian Sarkisian, 30, just this season added Texas to his slices of the Big Ten and Big 12 after beginning his career with National Football Scouting.
Duke Tobin recruited director of pro scouting director Steven Radicevic from UCLA ten years ago and director of college scouting Mike Potts from the Falcons eight years ago. Both are in their mid-30s and are two of the hottest scouts in the league.
During the last two offseasons, Radicevic, who also scouts the western schools, oversaw the Bengals’ richest and best free agency periods. The group, spearheaded by Pro Bowl-caliber nose tackle D.J. Reader and all-time single-season franchise sacker Trey Hendrickson, is coming off a historic season of success where 2020 and 2021 free agents accounted for nine Opening Day starters of a Super Bowl season.
“People don’t realize how good they are up front on defense,” Ballard says. “That’s underrated. Getting Reader back this year. Hendrickson. Signing Larry (Ogunjobi) to a one-year deal. Trading for B.J. Hill. (Cam) Sample was a good (draft) pick. They’re young and deep and that’s exactly what you want up there.”
Potts, who scouts the southeast, had the area of Burrow, Chase and McPherson before splitting the region this year with their newest and yet one of their most experienced scouts in Trey Brown. Andrew Johnson, already heading into his sixth season with the club, keeps adding to his responsibilities with some midwestern schools and free agency assignments to go along with his east coast duties.