One of the things I love about being afforded the opportunity to write for Rant Sports is that I get to openly sound off at anyone in the Chicago Bears organization that I feel is holding this franchise back. The person I have been most critical of since joining this website (on par with J’Marcus Webb) has been Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice.
My issues with Tice stem to before his promotion to Bears offensive coordinator. It started in the 2010 season, when he was the offensive line coach for the Bears. Excuses for the poor play of his line rolled from his tongue on a weekly basis. It annoyed me that a line showing no progression at all was not blamed one jot on his poor coaching, but rather the scheme put together by then-OC Mike Martz and the poor talent recruitment on the part of former general manager Jerry Angelo.
I was never seeking to lay sole responsibility on Tice’s shoulders, as he was equally part of the problem, not the solution. Then when the 2011 season came to a close, I was completely uninspired by the move to hire rookie GM Phil Emery (was wrong in my reservations on this one it would seem) and I was equally flat about the promotion of Tice to OC.
It seemed only logical that a man, who in two seasons had failed to get any real progression out of his o-line unit, would fail on an even grander scale to lead the Bears’ new high-powered offense to the level it needed to be at to succeed.
Through 11 weeks my fears appeared valid, as it seemed on a week-by-week basis that Tice was winging his play calling as he went and the offense looked completely unprepared tactically for their opposition.
Don’t get me wrong; they were scoring points and winning games, but they were far from polished performances. They were getting by on their innate ability rather than the prowess of their leaders’ play calling.
Here is the truth of the matter, the Week 12 offensive performance against the Minnesota Vikings almost brought a tear to my eye. I welled up with pride that it seems finally the penny has dropped for Tice as the mix of run and pass was perfect and the Bears pounded the ball right down the Vikings’ throats.
What also impressed me was that Tice incorporated a lot of short-yardage passing routes (21 in all), a tactic which worked with brutal efficiency and took a lot of strain off an o-line that has struggled furiously all season.
It wasn’t just the short-yardage routes that worked, but the play-action bootleg plays really knocked the Vikings, a team that is ranked 11th in total defense, off-balance. The touchdown pass to Matt Spaeth from Jay Cutler was possibly my favorite of the season. If the Bears’ offense could just sort out their screen plays I think it would send me over the edge in to unbridled joy.
You may ask why I am gushing about the play calling so much, my reasoning is twofold. First, if I am to be as openly critical of Tice that I write him an open letter (here) pleading with him to get his act together, logic dictates it is only fair I credit and praise him when he finally does it, especially when I never believed that he would ever figure out what seemed blatantly obvious.
My second is that every team that has won the Super Bowl in the past few years has peaked at the right time. If Tice can continue to show that he is finally understanding how to game plan for success, it is a great sign for a city desperate for another Superbowl winning team, but it is also a confidence boost for an offensive unit that has lost its best lineman to injury in Lance Louis.
I head back to my usual quip, but the Chicago Bears will only go as far as Mike Tice’s play calling, so if the penny really has dropped and this isn’t a false dawn, the rest of the NFL better be on notice.