Friday, January 6, 2012
Bears: Mike Tice in, Eric DeCosta out
By Kevin Seifert
We've had two rapid-fire news developments pop up Friday concerning the Chicago Bears:
- Baltimore Ravens executive Eric DeCosta, who might have been the Bears' top candidate to succeed general manager Jerry Angelo, announced he will remain with the Ravens and won't interview for any outside jobs. The Bears had requested permission to interview DeCosta, who likely is the heir to Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.
- The search for an offensive coordinator to replace Mike Martz, meanwhile, has reached its expected conclusion. As first reported by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, offensive line coach Mike Tice has been promoted to the job.
There's not much more we can say about DeCosta's decision. It's easy to say the Bears' job has limited attraction for a big-time general manager candidate, considering he will be required to inherit coach Lovie Smith. Most general managers prefer to hire their own people, including the coach. But DeCosta also turned down opportunities to interview for jobs where he would hire the head coach. One name to keep in mind for the Bears continues to be Atlanta Falcons executive Les Snead.
Tice's ascension makes sense for the reasons we've been discussing for weeks. Mostly, it means the Bears won't start completely from scratch after hitting their offensive stride midway through the season. Tice shares some of Martz's terminology and root concepts, and has had two years to build a relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler. That puts the Bears ahead of where they would have been had they hired from the outside.
Tice, of course, is a much bigger proponent of the power running game than Martz was, and that puts him on a closer wavelength with Smith. It will also lead to a unique arrangement that presumably covers for some of the downsides this move would otherwise present.
Tice will call the plays for the first time in his career, according to the Bears' web site. But he will have a running-game focus, while a yet-to-be-hired quarterbacks coach will concentrate on the passing game.
The upside of that arrangement is that Tice will spend more time with the offensive line during the week, even though a new line coach will be hired. And it will also make the new quarterbacks coach more significant in the Bears' hierarchy than he otherwise would have been. (My first thought went to Jeremy Bates, Cutler's former quarterbacks coach when both were in the Denver Broncos. Just a guess, though.)
On the other hand, it will require a special degree of communication and cooperation for this to work.
There is a prevalent line of thought in the NFL that the play-caller and quarterback must be in lock-step and spend maximum time with each other during the practice week. Is that possible if Tice is focusing on the running game, and a quarterbacks coach who isn't the play-caller is spending more time with Cutler?
We'll find out. If the Bears truly become a run-oriented team under Tice, maybe it'll make more sense to have him work with the offensive line. Regardless, as we've discussed many times, there was no perfect solution awaiting the Bears on this issue. Starting over with a brand new coordinator and scheme, which would have been the fourth such change for Cutler in the past five years, wasn't appealing in the short-term. At this point, the Bears' best option was to find a way to make it work with Tice.