Mike Tice to be Bears' O-coordinator

Updated: January 7, 2012, 2:08 AM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith stayed in-house with his search for an offensive coordinator to replace recently departed Mike Martz by promoting former offensive line coach Mike Tice to the position.

"I'm excited to have Mike move into our offensive coordinator role," Smith said in a statement. "He has been a valuable member of our staff over the past two years and has an excellent track record in the NFL. He was very impressive in his job interview yesterday and shares the same vision I have for our offense moving forward. 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.

"To complete our staff we will be hiring a passing coordinator who will work with our quarterbacks and an offensive line coach."

Quarterbacks coach Shane Day left with Martz. As for Tice still working with the offensive line, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli also works with the defensive line.

After Martz's spread attack, Tice promised to get back to a more traditional Bears offense.

"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," Tice said in a statement. "It will be important for us to utilize the talents of our players and exploit matchups each Sunday. 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, 52, joined the Bears in January 2010 after spending three years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite Chicago fielding lesser talent and battling injuries on the offensive line, the unit performed reasonably well under his direction. The team lost two line starters in 2011, yet the Bears rushed for more than 2,000 yards for just the second time since 1990.

The Tennessee Titans requested permission last offseason to interview Tice for an offensive coordinator position. But the Bears immediately declined and rewarded Tice with a contract extension.

At the time, Tice told ESPNChicago.com he was "disappointed" he couldn't pursue the opportunity in Tennessee. Interestingly, the chance to direct an offense has come around once again for Tice.

A former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings (2001-05), Tice inherits an offense with a promising nucleus in quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte and receiver Earl Bennett, but one that does lack some firepower.

Tice hinted the Bears will be on the lookout to strengthen the receiver position. He also talked about how one of his priorities -- just as it was when he was line coach -- is to better protect Cutler.

"You can't pass the ball in this league unless the quarterback is protected, and you can't protect unless you help the guys up front with chips, keeping tight ends in, play action, move the quarterback, move the launch point, we're going to do all those things moving forward," Tice said on "The Carmen, Jurko & Harry Show" on ESPN 1000. "We've done some of those things, but we're going to make sure our quarterback is protected so he can set his feet and throw the ball comfortably.

"With that said, if we're going to be like that, we do need a (receiver) that when he gets one-on-one coverage, he has to win way more than he loses. Obviously moving forward, we're going to evaluate the guys we have and how we've used them in the past. Our scouting department will do a great job, whether it's our pro personnel department or college scouting department in finding that guy or guys that are going to be able to let us implement this system, this process."

Tice said he believes he's on the same page with Cutler and he's going to remain hands-on with the offensive line.

During his tenure in Jacksonville, the Jaguars -- employing a smashmouth brand of football -- ranked among the league's best at running the ball. From 2006-09, the Jaguars averaged a league-high 154 yards rushing in division games. From 2005-09, the Jags led the NFL with a 138.3-yard rushing average in games on the road, including 127.1 yards per game in Tice's final season with the team.

An assistant head coach with the Jaguars, Tice played a major role in game-planning and putting together the team's offensive playbook.

Despite his intricate knowledge of the running game, Tice also has displayed the propensity to generate fireworks with the passing attack. Some believe Tice -- a former college quarterback and NFL tight end -- has never been an offensive playcaller. But at Minnesota, Tice called plays as offensive coordinator Scott Linehan -- now with Detroit -- transitioned into his new job.

Tice has shown a penchant for utilizing the deep passing game, which should jibe well with Cutler, who possesses one of the league's strongest arms.

The Vikings ranked in the top five in yardage during Tice's second and third seasons as coach and in the top 10 in terms of scoring in three years of his five-year tenure.

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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