Now that the Bears have accumulated more offensive skill-position talent than they've had in a generation, offensive coordinator Mike Tice has to figure out how best to utilize the different components.
"I think he's got probably the hardest job in the building of being able to mesh these offensive players with different schemes," quarterback Jay Cutler said after Tuesday's minicamp practice at Halas Hall. "It's always hard as a first-time coordinator installing your offense and getting it up and running for Game One. He's got a tough gig, but he's doing a great job. He's listening to a lot of different guys and taking everyone's opinion into consideration and then trying to find the best solution."
Finding the ideal role for everyone may be a challenging job for Tice, but no coach ever complains about having an abundance of talent. In his first year running the Bears' offense, Tice is working to build a consensus among players and coaches
"The communication across the board has been fantastic," Tice said. "Amongst the players and between the coaches and the players, you see a good rapport, and that's always important. At the end of the day, we are all in it together, and we're trying to do one thing, that's win a championship. We need them, they need us, and if we work together toward that goal, we'll be successful."
The biggest goal is to provide Cutler with the highest level of comfort possible. Personnel wise, his relationship with Earl Bennett goes back to their days at Vanderbilt, and he and Brandon Marshall put up sick numbers together in two full seasons with the Broncos. The goal is to do the same schematically, accentuating what Cutler does best and avoiding plays, throws and concepts that don't dovetail with his strengths and skills.
"It's stuff that I do well," Cutler said of Tice's playbook, which has the input of quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, an offensive assistant in Denver when Cutler and Marshall were there. "It's stuff that I know. I don't know if 'tailored' is the right word, but it's stuff that, as a quarterback, you want to be in the same offense over and over and over again so that you get a good feel for it so that you know all the nuances. This offense, I was in it three years in Denver. Now this is my fourth year, so it's something I'm very comfortable with."
According to Cutler, it's a collaborative effort, with aspects of what worked for the Broncos in 2007 and '08, and what has worked for Tice in the past when he was the Vikings head coach and an assistant head coach with the Jaguars.
"There's a lot of carryover (from Denver)," Cutler said. "A lot of stuff that we did the last couple years. It's kind of a mixture of some stuff that Mike likes from his past, stuff that Jeremy has, he learned even more at Seattle (in 2009 and '10 with the Seahawks), so it's kind of a mixture of a lot of different things."
Unlike the system under former offensive coordinator Mike Martz, Cutler now has the option to audible.
"That's the word," he said with a wide grin.
Tice seems pleased with the offense as well. He said it's hard to tell what Cutler is comfortable with at this point because he looks good on every throw he makes. And the variety of talent at the wide receiver position has him optimistic.
"We have guys that can run and catch, make plays, play physical, and go take the ball out of the sky," Tice said. "We have to be able to get those athletes the football when the situations deems. We can't be afraid to throw the ball down the field against single coverage. We've got to be able to take advantage of that. Free access (to) a great player should be something that a defense should be punished for (allowing). I've always felt that, and we're going to make sure we do that."