Here’s an interesting P.S. to the Bill Tobin, Mel Kiper feud

1994 NFL Draft
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The 27th anniversary landed on Saturday of the memorable moment between former Colts G.M. Bill Tobin and longtime ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper. Roughly a week before that, the player Kiper believed the Colts should have taken shared with Ryen Russillo a story that, if true, makes the entire Tobin-Kiper kerfuffle moot.

Quarterback Trent Dilfer told Russillo that the Colts didn’t draft Dilfer because his agent, Mike Sullivan, had informed the Colts that Dilfer would not sign a contract with Indianapolis.

“I didn’t go to the Colts because my agent told them I would sit out the year and I would then be the Panthers’ first pick in their first year,” Dilfer said. “So that was the whole Mel Kiper, General Manager argument on ESPN that gets shown every year. They couldn’t pick me at five instead of Trev Alberts because we said I wouldn’t play. So I always try to defend the Colts that way. And I regret it because I could have played with Marshall [Faulk] for a long time.”

It’s unclear how long Dilfer would have played with Faulk. First, Faulk spent only five years with the Colts, before being traded to the Rams. Second, Dilfer may not have been the quarterback for very long in Indianapolis. In Tampa, he threw 17 touchdown passes against 43 interceptions during his first three seasons. This means that the Colts still may have been in position to take Peyton Manning four years after the Dilfer draft, even if the Colts had taken Dilfer.

Dilfer, who later threatened to sit out the 1994 season and re-enter the draft in a contract squabble with the Buccaneers, explained that his agent didn’t believe the Colts were a viable destination for Dilfer.

“There’s a lot of history between agents and GMs,” Dilfer said. “There’s a lot of opinions on the direction franchises are gonna go, and you kind of have to trust them. . . . He was convinced that the Colts were going nowhere, that this was a bad situation to be in, even with Marshall Faulk gonna be there it wasn’t enough. He was convinced that that was a bad spot, and convinced me and my family that that would not be the best spot for us and that Tampa would be better one pick later.”

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Dilfer actually would have sat out a full season and re-entered the draft. It’s rare that players make this threat before the draft, and it’s even more rare that they act upon it. Also, maybe the Colts wouldn’t have taken Dilfer regardless of his vow to boycott the team.

The Tobin-Kiper fight almost didn’t happen for an entirely different reason. Dilfer told Russillo that, as of the night before the draft, Washington had decided to take Dilfer, not Heath Shuler, with the third overall selection.

The next morning, someone (it wasn’t Dan Snyder; he hadn’t bought the team yet) decided to take Shuler instead. Dilfer said that the surprise caused his wife, who was looking for houses in the Washington area, to start crying. Other family members scrambled to ensure that TV cameras wouldn’t see her reaction to the announcement that Shuler was the pick at No. 3.

But for that unexpected, last-minute decision by Washington, TV cameras never would have captured Kiper’s reaction to the Colts not taking Dilfer, and the even better reaction by Tobin to Kiper’s comments. So, basically, we’ve finally found a good reason for Washington’s decision to draft Heath Shuler.

22 responses to “Here’s an interesting P.S. to the Bill Tobin, Mel Kiper feud

  1. Name another QB with lesser talent than Dilfer to win a SB as a starter QB—having a hard time?

  2. Dilfer was almost a complete bust.


    I’d argue that he was a complete bust, even considering that season when he was paired up with one of the most prolific defenses in the history of the NFL.

  3. His agent was right. Even with Luck following Manning they only got 1 super bowl.

  4. One of those what-ifs that really didn’t change anything because all players involved were busts.

  5. It’s amazing that the draft gurus have been making a living all these years without any knowledge of the inner workings of what goes on’s also amazing that these gm’s make a living being wrong so much of the time

  6. boozer32 says: “it’s also amazing that these gm’s make a living being wrong so much of the time”

    Every single player in the draft was a star on their college team and has the physical talent to play in the NFL. But GMs have to PROJECT if the kid will continue to grow better or has peaked.

    Drafting isn’t a science. Like picking stocks, they just have to be right 60% of the time.

  7. Shuler was one guy I missed on badly. I thought he was going to be a stud. Most old Washington players I hear talk about him say they knew the first practice he couldn’t play in the NFL. Again though, it just lets you know again how comical the draft hype is every year looking back at these bad players who teams were drooling over on draft day.

  8. Like the term “awesome” which is thrown out WAY too much…so is the term bust.

    Sure… Different didn’t set the world on fire… but he had a 12 year NFL career and won a super bowl…

    And we have to lump that into the likes of Dwayne Haskins…or AJ Jenkins… etc ???

    He may have not met expectations…but conplete bust…. come on…

  9. Mel Kiper is in the same league as Trent Dilfer. Overrated. I miss Joel Buschbaum more and more each year pre-draft.

  10. Dilfer came to Tampa Bay afterward they won that Super Bowl and Gruden went into the tank. It wasn’t totally Dilfer’s fault. Look at the Bucs records during Gruden’s “I collect quarterbacks” years.

  11. Has anyone ever done a retroactive study on Mel’s success rate? I would imagine it is not much better than the average NFL GM, which seems to be about 60%.

  12. Just goes to show how much of a crapshoot the draft and what our perceptions are of who is good going in and what they are worth. TRENT DILFER was calling the shots and telling teams yeah we aren’t interested in playing for you. A man with aSB ring, but who never was a top NFL QB for one snap in his pro career. We think a lot of these QBs, some big trades have been made so people can draft one. But we know nothing of this group whom will succeed or will be a bust. Which is why if you’re willing to mortgage your future for one theGM has put every job from his to the coach and OC on that selection.

  13. It’s the one time Bill Tobin DIDNT miss on a QB. Dilfer and Shuler both sucked. Tobin missed on Harbaugh in ’87 in Chicago. He was so high and Harbaugh, he ran Flutie out of town.

  14. Shuler was a complete bust, not Dilfer. He had a career, won a SB and played well doing it …

  15. Everyone is talking about how bad Dilfer was as a QB, yet fail to acknowledge that he was even worse as a broadcaster.

  16. fanindenial says:
    April 25, 2021 at 9:41 am
    Name another QB with lesser talent than Dilfer to win a SB as a starter QB—having a hard time?


    Eli Manning is up there. Refused to play for the team that drafted him. Road defenses to Super Bowl wins. He wins out on TD to INT ratio but loses on Wins to Losses

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