Mike Tice, Jay Cutler
Updated: September 2, 2012 6:23AM
BOURBONNAIS — During his news conference Tuesday, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler didn’t mention a certain bespectacled assistant coach with the initials MM who recently ruled the offense.
Still, Cutler’s praise of new offensive coordinator Mike Tice seemed to be a subtle swipe at his old offensive coordinator.
“I have a little bit of input — not much,” Cutler said. “I’ve got a few things that I whisper in [Tice’s] ear, and he’s always receptive of it.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to do what’s best offensively for us, no matter if a rookie has the idea, if Mike has the idea, or Jeremy [Bates] or me. Whatever is going to work against a given defense, we’re going to use it.”
Tice’s predecessor, Mike Martz, engineered one of the NFL’s greatest offenses with the St. Louis Rams. But his team boasted a number of Pro Bowl- and Hall of Fame-caliber players, and he struggled to find anywhere close to that success in San Francisco, Detroit and Chicago.
There were concerns that he was too inflexible, unwilling to take input, insistent on running certain plays, regardless of what the defense was doing.
There was no more tangible example than the ability to call audibles.
Cutler consistently downplayed Martz’s resistance to let him change plays at the line of scrimmage. But elite quarterbacks — think Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees — are trusted to make such crucial decisions.
Tice, a former quarterback at Maryland, is all for empowering Cutler to audible.
“We have a tremendous line-of-scrimmage package, as much as anybody,” Tice said. “We have guidelines for that package, we want to make sure he stays within the guidelines of that package and he’s been doing a great job with it.
“When we’re running into bad number counts, then that falls back on us. Then we look like dummies. We want to put them in position to succeed, and sometimes it’s scheme.”
Zing. Another subtle swipe at Martz.
But Tice’s background dictates his approach to his position.
In addition to being a college quarterback, Tice played 14 NFL seasons. He understands the importance of trusting veterans. As the Minnesota Vikings’ coach, he featured star receiver Randy Moss. Not surprisingly, Moss had his only two 100-plus catch seasons under Tice’s watch, as well as a career-high 1,632 receiving yards in 2003.
So while Tice might like certain plays, his inclination is to run the plays that his players have a knack for executing.
“Why call things that they’re not comfortable with?” Tice said. “I think it’s important across the board to have a great line of communication between the players and the coaches.”
That’s not easy, though. It’s like playing team psychologist, with everyone looking for a spot on the couch.
“I think Mike probably has one of the toughest jobs on the field, being able to take everyone’s input and different ideas and being able to dissect it and figure out what the best is for this offensive football team,” Cutler said. “We’ve got a lot of bright minds out here, a lot of guys that have been in a lot of football games.
“He’s doing a great job. I think he’s accepting that role and really relishing in it.”
The Bears, of course, hope all that goodwill lasts and pays off.