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Bears promote Mike Tice to offensive coordinator

The Bears have promoted Mike Tice be team's offensive coordinator. | AP

The Bears have promoted Mike Tice to be the team's offensive coordinator. | AP

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Updated: January 6, 2012 11:53PM

In an anticipated move, the Bears have promoted offensive line coach Mike Tice to offensive coordinator to replace Mike Martz, who was fired on Tuesday.

The Bears announced the promotion Friday morning. They are still expected to hire coaches to handle the offensive line and quarterbacks.

The quarterbacks coach will have input on the passing offense, but Tice will ultimately call the plays.

Tice, who has been the Bears’ offensive line coach since 2010, when he and Martz were part of a major offensive shakeup after Ron Turner was fired as offensive coordinator, never has been an offensive coordinator. He was the Minnesota Vikings head coach from 2001-05. He coached tight ends with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2006-09 before being hired by the Bears.

“I’m excited to have Mike move into our offensive coordinator role,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said in a statement released by the team. “He has been a valuable member of our staff over the past two years and has an excellent track record in the NFL.’’

Under Tice, the Bears are expected to become more of a traditional run-based offense with a downfield passing attack that will take better advantage of quarterback Jay Cutler’s arm strength. Under Tice and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, the Vikings set an NFL record with 36 consecutive games of 300 or more passing yards from 2002-04. In 2003, the Vikings led the NFL in total offense with 6,294 yards. The Bears franchise record is 5,837 yards in 1985.

‘‘He was very impressive in his job interview yesterday and shares the same vision I have for our offense,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We want to be a strong running team with a big-play pass attack. Mike will call plays for us and continue to have an active role with our offensive line.’’

Smith said he will hire a ‘‘passing coordinator’’ to replace quarterbacks coach Shane Day, who was let go on Tuesday, and an offensive line coach to replace Tice. Some of the possible candidates for those positions are Jeremy Bates, the former Seahawks offensive coordinator and Cutler’s quarterbacks coach in Denver; Clyde Christensen, the Colts’ offensive coordinator who worked with Smith in Tampa; and, Bill Callahan, the Jets’ offensive line coach.

Tice, 52, who received a contract extension in 2011 after the Bears turned down the Tennessee Titans’ request for permission to talk to him about their offensive coordinator opening, emphasized ‘‘toughness’’ and the running game as priorities as offensive coordinator. In his first year as the Vikings head coach in 2002, the Vikings led the NFL with 2,507 rushing yards, a franchise record.

“Lovie and I share a similar mindset of what the Bears offense should look and feel like,” Tice said in a statement. “There will be a toughness about us. We are going to be a powerful run team and we’re going to be able to mix in explosive pass plays.

The promotion of Tice as offensive coordinator makes it more likely the Bears also will give Cutler a proven No. 1 wide receiver he thrived with in Denver (Brandon Marshall). As head coach of the Vikings, Tice devised the “Randy Ratio,’’ a plan to have 40 percent of the team’s passes go to Moss, whose production had dropped in 2001 (82 receptions, 1,233 yards, 15.0 per catch, 10 TDs) from All-Pro levels in his first three seasons.

Moss caught more balls (106) for more yards (1,347), but gained fewer yards per catch (12.70 and scored fewer touchdowns (seven) as the Vikings finished 6-10. But at least he tried to take maximize his best offensive player — it’s the main reason he hired Linehan as his offensive coordinator in 2002 — which is one of the biggest criticisms of Martz as the Bears’ offensive coordinator.

‘‘It will be important for us to utilize the talents of our players and exploit match-ups each Sunday,’’ Tice said. ‘‘We have athletes we can build with. I feel fortunate Lovie has placed the trust in me to help move us forward to a championship.”

Tice, a Bayshore, N.Y. native, was a quarterback at Maryland, but played tight end for 15 years in the NFL, mostly with the Seattle Seahawks and the Vikings. He began coaching in the NFL as the Vikings tight ends coach in 1996. He coached the offensive line in 1997-01 before replacing Dennis Green for the final game of the 2001 season.

While Tice has only limited play-calling experience as head coach of the Vikings and never has been an offensive coordinator, his promotion with the Bears is considered a prudent move by Smith. Attracting viable candidates outside the organization was likely to be problematic with Smith and his coaching staff in limbo in 2012 once the Bears hire a new general manager. In an even less precarious situation two years ago, the Bears went through five candidates — three of whom turned down Smith’s offer — before hiring Martz to end a four-week search.

This one took three days and, while probably not the most popular choice among Bears fans, allows the team to maintain a semblance of continuity. Center Roberto Garza, an offensive captain, was among those who supported the return of Martz. But he also is a strong supporter of Tice.

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