Tice's decisions on O-line confusing

Bears OC Mike Tice has made some questionable decisions on the offensive line, which has led to instability and inconsistency, nearly sending Jay Cutler over the edge against Green Bay.

Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice has a way with words.

"The two quickest, fastest increments of time in the universe is the time it takes a New York cab driver to honk is horn when the light turns green," Tice said today, "and the time it takes to go from the penthouse to the outhouse in the NFL."

And that pretty much sums up the drastic change in perception of the Bears from Week 1 to Week 2 of the 2012 season. Chicago's offense pummeled the Indianapolis Colts in the opener, posting 41 points without breaking a sweat. It was a performance that had some folks calling them Super Bowl contenders.

Things changed radically four days later. Against the Green Bay Packers, the offense turned the ball over four times and allowed seven sacks. It was a dismal performance, resulting in 168 total yards for the game. The 23-10 loss, which wasn't as close as the final score indicates, now has everyone in Chicago ready to jump ship.

As has been the case for years now, Chicago's offense only goes so far as its line takes them. When Jay Cutler has time to throw, he's one of the best passers in the league. When he's constantly hurried, hit and sacked, he turns into Rex Grossman.

Despite this reality, the club has continuously failed in recent years to bring in quality talent up front. And when that happens, you end up with a former seventh rounder protecting your franchise quarterback's blindside.

Yet while everyone is quick to blame J'Marcus Webb – and rightfully so – let's not forget the part Tice has played in this mess. He is the one who has insisted that Webb is a starting NFL left tackle, despite Webb continually failing to get the job done.

Cutler, who has been the direct victim of Webb's subpar play, showed on Thursday he's had enough. His verbal and physical abuse of Webb on the sidelines was a clear sign his anger finally having finally boiled over. Yet as of this week, Webb still has his job on the left edge.

"We can specifically talk about J'Marcus, that in the five games he's played against Green Bay, he's fared pretty well," said Tice. "And he also came off with a pretty decent performance the week before where I heard people talking and texting: ‘Does he get the game ball?' So he couldn't have been that bad the week before. It's a long season. This is a young player that didn't want to go out there and play at that level. We'll see how he bounces back."

Webb obviously has been given one more get-out-of-jail-free card, yet Chris Spencer wasn't so lucky. Chilo Rachal will replace Spencer at left guard in the starting lineup. Spencer, signed in the 2011 offseason, was moved from right guard to left guard this year, where he had never before played during his career. The move didn't go smoothly, thus the switch.

In no way, though, has Spencer played any worse than Webb, who somehow still has his job. It's safe to say Tice is the only one who understands that logic.

Even worse, Rachal has never started at left guard either. Tice is replacing one inexperienced player with another.

"We felt like coming out of training camp it was almost dead-even [between Spencer and Rachal]" Tice said. "And it was one of those deals, I think I said, ‘If it's not broke don't fix it.' We were actually playing pretty good ball coming out of camp. We went a number of weeks with hardly any sacks. We knew we had to run the ball better. But if it wasn't broke don't fix it. So now it's broke, so we'll make a change."

Tice choosing two players with no experience at left guard is made worse by the fact there are two lineman on the current roster that fared well at the position last year: Chris Williams and Edwin Williams. Chris was the starter there the past two seasons and was replaced by Edwin in Week 11 last year after suffering a wrist injury.

A career tackle previous to 2010, Chris was starting to play well at guard in 2011 and seemed to finally be grasping the position. At the time of his injury, he was arguably the best lineman on the team. Yet Tice chose to move him back outside this offseason to challenge Webb, who ended up being the lesser of two evils. Williams failed to win that battle, yet Tice didn't even consider moving him back to guard when Spencer was demoted.

"No," Williams told Bear Report today. "I've been taking reps everywhere since camp started, so I just go where he puts me."

In seven starts last year, Edwin Williams proved to be the team's best interior pass blocker. Right now, his skill-set would provide protection in Cutler's face. Yet through two weeks, he's yet to be activated on game day.

Tice is always referred to as an offensive line guru, and did rectify a group that played horribly through the first month of the season in 2011. That said, his shuffling of the offensive line throughout this offseason and now into the regular season has been head scratching to say the least. He needs to quickly right the ship.

"We need to block, block, block people," said Tice. "We can't do anything unless we block people. That's part of the whole overall deal. You go into a game and you believe you have a good plan. You tweak the plan in the course of a game and you try to put players in a position to succeed. Not always can a guy have help. So when those occasions arise, when a player doesn't get the help, he's got to win. We don't expect our players to grade out 100 percent. But we expect better results than we had."

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of 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.

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