Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice can handle the truth
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com October 3, 2012 8:36PM
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 01: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears looks to pass the ball against Kellen Davis #87 in the first half against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on October 1, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Updated: November 5, 2012 11:50AM
Mike Tice preceding Lovie Smith at Halas Hall’s press-room podium is like the Beatles playing as a warm-up act for Tommy Roe in England nearly 50 years ago.
Smith rightfully gets top billing as the Bears’ coach, but Tice is the rock star on the staff. And not because he’s Mr. Entertainment or Vince Lombardi, but because he sees the same game we do.
In the controlled environment of Halas Hall, every critic is a hater, every criticism an insult and every critical question an inquisition. But Tice is somehow able to rise above that and acknowledge reality — shortcomings, mistakes and subpar individual performances — while still maintaining the same loyalty and reverence from his players that his boss famously has thrived on for years.
On Wednesday, while Smith was lightly chiding reporters for their obsession with the Bears’ offensive line and their rotating safeties and ‘‘The Over the Hill Gang’’ on defense, Tice accepted kudos for an impressive offensive performance in a 34-18 victory Monday over the Dallas Cowboys and didn’t even pause before acknowledging he’s not going to make the same mistake he made the last time he was a genius.
‘‘We took some steps forward, and I think it was very important to learn from the last time we had a solid game on offense and, myself included, probably got a little ahead of ourselves and a little full of ourselves,’’ Tice said.
‘‘We want to make sure we caution on that this week and make sure we stay focused on the areas that we can improve on and not smile and be happy about the things we did well. It’s too short of a week for that.’’
Tice, of course, is referring to the Bears’ 41-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the season opener, when we all got drunk over a vintage bottle of Bears wine from 1942.
Suddenly the Bears were in the ‘‘point-scoring business,’’ as Jay Cutler put it. And even Tice was scoffing at the notion of controlling the upcoming game against the Green Bay Packers by running the ball.
‘‘We’ll get the running game going,’’ Tice said that week. ‘‘The main thing [is] we just want to score points. If it takes two plays to score points or 12 or 16, we want to score points. We’re not going to count the minutes of each drive and say we have to slow down the car. We’re not going to play that style.’’
Instead of fighting the ensuing criticism, Tice accepted it and did something about it. He replaced left guard Chris Spencer with Chilo Rachal — who grew up in the NFL as a run-blocker for Frank Gore with the San Francisco 49ers. He acknowledged reality — ‘‘We’re bad on first down’’ — and made improving the running game a publicly stated priority.
By keeping an open mind instead of battening down the hatches in the face of criticism, Tice seems better equipped to learn from his mistakes. Against the Packers’ 3-4 defense, Cutler was under siege in a 23-10 loss. Against the Cowboys’ 3-4, Tice allowed Cutler to roll out and use his uncanny accuracy on the move to prevent the Cowboys from getting a bead on him. Cutler was 5-for-6 throwing on the move, including a touchdown pass to Devin Hester.
‘‘He can throw the ball on the run with the best of them,’’ Tice said. ‘‘Changing that launch point for us is really [key] because having a guy back there as a sitting target — [like in] the Green Bay game — is not a great thing against real good pass-rushing teams. So moving him around is really good for the pocket and changing the launch point, but it’s also good for your run game, too, because it slows down that backside pursuit.’’
With all sorts of possibilities, Tice sounded ready to make even better use of that weapon in the future.
‘‘So every time it comes up, if it doesn’t work, you can dog me, and when it works, say I did a great job of changing the launch point,’’ Tice said. ‘‘Just like you said I did a crummy job of changing the launch point in Green Bay. And I agree.’’