Bears believe Tice is the man to guide offense
With Mike Tice in charge of the Bears' offense this season, there are plenty of people excited to see what Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Co. and achieve in 2012.
BOURBONNAIS — The Bears have accumulated the offensive firepower worthy of a playoff team. Now it's up to first-year offensive coordinator Mike Tice to maximize those weapons.
Early expectations are that he's more than up to the job. And it's not just exuberant fans and media jumping on the Tice bandwagon — it's the players, coaches and front-office staff who are also pumped up.
"Am I excited about what he's (already) done with the Chicago Bears?" general manager Phil Emery said. "You bet. The players feel good. You want players to be able to turn it loose and play, and that's what I see in Mike.
"He's a technician. He expects perfection. But he's also a good coach in that he can keep the scheme simple for the players, so that they can go out and execute it and play to their fullest ability. I feel very good about Mike in his role."
Even more important, the players feel good about Tice, and it's not just because he isn't predecessor Mike Martz, whose stubborn arrogance not only turned off the troops but whose play-calling too often put them in position to fail the past two seasons.
Asked to differentiate between two of his more high-profile hires, head coach Lovie Smith deftly tap dances around the task.
"I just know what we want to look like with our Bear offense, and I feel good about what Mike Tice and the rest of the offensive staff will bring this year," Smith said. "I think this year, as you watch us play, and how we play offensive football, this is more the look that we all kind of envision us being."
Translation: Don't expect Tice and the Bears to ignore the run game as Martz occasionally did. There's almost no chance that Tice's offense will have back-to-back games with just 12 running plays, as Martz's offense did in Weeks 2 and 3 last season, which contributed to double-digit losses.
As a long-time NFL offensive line coach and a player whose strong suits were blocking and physical play, Tice won't ask O-linemen to do the impossible. He won't make a habit of asking his offensive tackles to stalemate premier pass rushers without help while Cutler takes seven-step drops on slow-developing pass plays.
Partly because that happened too frequently under Martz, the Bears allowed 105 sacks over the past two seasons, more than any other NFL team. Only the Cardinals allowed more than 90 over that time span.
"Mike Tice has got a really good feel for what I like to do, of how to put guys in position to be successful," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "I'm happy with it. There's still some tweaking and some stuff that we've got to do, so everyone is on the same page, but the off-season work we've done has been putting us in the right direction.
"I think that Mike's sole objective is to put guys in position to be successful. He wants to attack defenses and do it smartly; find ways where we can put our best player against one of their worst players. And that's something that we're going to strive to do week-in and week-out."
In the first three of his four full seasons as the Vikings' head coach (2002-05), their offense was one of the NFL's most productive, averaging over 25 points per game.
Tice is a media favorite because of his no-bull, straight-shooting approach, and his sense of humor, candor and honesty. A lot of those traits appeal to players as well. But the physically imposing, 6-foot-7 Tice has already demonstrated a low tolerance for mental mistakes like jumping offsides ("We're not going to put up with that"), and physical mistakes like fumbling ("You cannot put the ball on the ground").
The affable Tice can quickly become the intimidating Tice who played tight end in the NFL for 14 seasons and was not anyone's idea of a finesse player.
All facets of Tice's personality have been on display since he was promoted from offensive line coach on Jan. 6.
"I've seen Mike explode on guys," Cutler said, "and I've seen Mike pull guys to the side and talk to them quietly. I think Mike does a really good job of knowing what you need, what kind of player you are, if you're a yell-at-'em type of guy or if you're a kind of pull-'em-aside guy.
"Whatever. He can coach me however. I mean, I think we're all in it for the same reasons. He's excited about this offense and so am I."
With Tice putting as many people as possible in positions to succeed, there might be a lot of players excited about the 2012 Bears offense.
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