New Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice is a fun interview. Most NFL coaches give you the bare minimum, talking a lot but actually not saying much. Coach Lovie Smith has it down to a science. But with Tice, you typically get the unfiltered truth, not coach-speak.
And so it was in his first interview since being promoted to OC a few weeks ago. Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs spoke with Tice this week about his vision for the Bears' offense. Unlike Martz, who was a control freak of epic proportions, Tice will allow quarterback Jay Cutler much more freedom to take control of the offense on the field.
"I am tailoring what I am doing to what I've done, which is common sense," Tice told the Tribune. "Why run it when they have one more guy than you can block? Why not throw it when you have free access and you have a guy who can beat single coverage?
"To do that you have to have the ability to check at the line of scrimmage, you have to have the ability to have a short passing game. And then I'm a no-huddle guy and we don't have no huddle. … I want to be able to go no huddle and change the rhythm offensively."
OC Mike Tice
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire
In Martz's system, Cutler did not have any options at the line of scrimmage, no matter what the defense was showing. In fact, he wasn't even allowed to call audibles. This is akin to asking a chef to cook with one hand. In today's NFL, where changes at the line of scrimmage can be the difference between a win and a loss, it doesn't make sense to handcuff the quarterback.
What Tice outlined in his interview is an offense that will rely heavily on the maturation and intelligence of Cutler. Now in his sixth season, the veteran will get a chance to get behind the wheel of the offense, without a coordinator acting as a backseat driver.
It's doubtful the overall philosophy of the offense will change much – heavy on the run, throw the ball down the field – yet it will now be Cutler's show, instead of him being a puppet for the guy calling the plays. With the considerable strides Cutler made last season – slimming down, making better decision, reducing turnovers, moving well in the pocket, increased accuracy and footwork – it appears he's ready to be the on-field general. For Bears fans, especially those who grew tired of Martz's anal ways, this should be an exciting development.
Yet none if it will mean much unless the offensive line can keep Cutler upright. This is especially so on the blindside, where LT J'Marcus Webb really struggled last season. According to Pro Football Focus, no tackle in the NFL gave up more sacks than Webb. Yet it appears Tice is willing to give the third-year player another shot in 2012.
"Here is what I saw with [Webb]: Second-year player playing one side one year and one side another," said Tice. "I thought he was adequate. His consistency grade was actually solid. What grade was bad was the critical errors, the sacks, penalties."
Yet where Martz was unwilling to mold his game plan to mask the deficiencies up front, Tice is willing to develop schemes that play to the strengths of his players.
"Well, if you're not always in the deep drops, if you're making sure the guy gets chip help from a back or a tight end and if you change the release point of the quarterback, you're going to make him better already without making him better.
"And then you have an entire offseason (with) a chance to make him better there. He is a very good run blocker. Do I think he is a guy moving forward? Yes, I do unless some miracle happens and an elite first-round draft pick that we couldn't pass up fell in our lap, which I doubt. Yeah, he's our guy moving forward."
Yet that could change if the new general manager decides to make significant upgrades to the offensive line, a group that has finished fifth and first in the league the past two years respectively in sacks allowed. It would also help to have a receiving corps that can actually create separation and win the one-on-one battles in man coverage.
"If you're going to take advantage of the box count and you're going to get the ball to that guy with single coverage, you need a guy who is going to get open more than 90 percent of the time," Tice said. "We don't have a guy who has stepped up, in my opinion, and shown us that ability. We either have to develop one who is in the building or we have to bring one in via the draft or free agency."
If Tice has his way, expect the team to put an emphasis on upgrading the wideout position this offseason, which should be music to Cutler's ears.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.