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Mike Tice only one who can rescue Bears’ offensive line

Under Mike Tice Bears’ offensive line improved as last two seasons went along. Without him thhasn’t been case. | Tom

Under Mike Tice, the Bears’ offensive line improved as the last two seasons went along. Without him, that hasn’t been the case. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 26, 2012 6:25AM

I have to give the Bears some credit. When they benched Chilo Rachal last week, it looked as though they were
sacrificing an obscure guard to satisfy fans’ bloodlust and return everyone to the happy world run by Lovie Smith and his band of merry men.

But then they benched right tackle Gabe Carimi, who has been burned, beaten and run over so much that he’s unrecognizable as the once-promising first-round pick from Wisconsin. In other words, the Bears finally were admitting they saw what a lot of us saw: an offensive line that was keeping the team from greatness.

So now Jonathan Scott takes Carimi’s spot. I don’t know if he’s the same as the old hoss, but something needed to change. The Bears signed Scott, a former starter for the Steelers, in September. He has to be better than Carimi, doesn’t he? I guess there’s no law that says he does.

This mess should have been addressed last offseason, when general manager Phil Emery had a chance to solve the problem but didn’t. The pro-Emery crowd continues to ask: What free-agent offensive linemen were better than those the Bears already had?

Answer: If Emery could have found two Shriners turning circles in clown cars, they would have been better than Carimi and left tackle J’Marcus Webb.

You know what the bard, Mike Ditka, says: The past is for cowards and losers. But we never should forget that Emery had a responsibility to protect what is supposed to be his biggest asset, quarterback Jay Cutler. And he could have saved the Bears from the calamity of a blowout loss Monday in San Francisco. Instead, they were bullet-less on the offensive line for that game, and backup quarterback Jason Campbell had several near-death experiences.

But let’s take Ditka’s cosmic advice and concentrate on the now. When offensive coordinator Mike Tice was asked last week whether it might be better for the team if he took over the offensive line and let quarterbacks coach Jeremy
Bates tend to the play-calling, he bristled a bit.

He seemed to read it as an indictment of his stale offense, but the question actually carried an implied compliment. When he coached the Bears’ offensive line the previous two seasons, a bad group of blockers improved as the season went along — to the point where the unit became serviceable.

On the other hand, the line this season has gotten worse. It played well against the Texans, then protected Campbell in San Francisco about as well as crime-scene tape. Emery isn’t going to save this season, but Tice might. Keep him away from the play-calling and get him back to what he does best. And let’s see if Bates, Cutler’s buddy from his days with the Broncos, can infuse some life into an offense that is dragging down this team. When Bates called the plays for the Broncos in 2008, Cutler and Brandon Marshall put up excellent numbers, and Cutler made his only Pro Bowl.

Bates would run into the same problems Tice has as coordinator. It’s hard to move the ball consistently when you’re using tight ends and running backs as blockers. But maybe a new set of eyes and a different offensive mind would make a difference.

This is where it gets tricky for the Bears and Tice: He’s getting a coordinator’s salary. Do you think he’d want to go back to being a line coach and risk losing his job (and money) to Bates?

You know what coaches have said forever: Whatever is best for the team. Time to live that slogan.

The other day, Tice dismissed as ‘‘desperation’’ the idea of inserting guard James Brown, a newcomer, into the starting lineup. If these aren’t desperate times, what are? The Bears are indeed 7-3, a fine record, as Smith has said over and over since the embarrassing 32-7 loss to the 49ers. But they haven’t beaten many good opponents, which is a problem. A 7-3 record feels like 5-5 graded on an unforgiving curve.

Is it too late for the Bears to train an offensive line to behave? Probably, but maybe Tice can ride to the rescue.

Last week, somebody asked him whether Cutler would be able to return from his concussion Sunday to face the Vikings.

‘‘God, I hope so,’’ he said.

Is there any chance Tice will do what he does best and work with the offensive line? God, Bears fans hope so.

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