Tice took a big step toward potentially getting back into that elite fraternity as, just days after the Chicago Bears fired general manager Jerry Angelo and embattled offensive coordinator Mike Martz "voluntarily" retired, Tice was promoted to the job of offensive coordinator for the Bears Friday, putting him one step closer to getting back to the job he loved so much and was taken away as much for off-field conduct of players as anything.
Tice got his head coaching opportunity with the Vikings due more out of circumstance than achievement. The 2001 season for the Vikings was arguably as disappointing as the 2011 season. The Vikings had been to two of the three previous NFC Championship Games and when the team publicly imploded in front of national TV cameras in their second game – the first following the halting of the 2001 season as the result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks – the Vikings were on the ropes waiting for the ref to stop the fight. After posting a 36-12 record the previous three seasons, the Vikings never had a point in 2001 in which they were even at .500, finishing the season at 5-11, including losses in their last four games, six of their last seven and eight of the last 10. They were bad times and, in the minds of many, Tice was hired as head coach because he was viewed as being a coach that would be properly able to coddle temperamental superstar Randy Moss.
In his four years as head coach of the Vikings, the Tice Administration was marked by streaks of positives and negatives. In his first season as head coach, the Vikings finished 6-10, but won their last three games and effectively saved Tice's job. In 2003, the Vikings got off to a 6-0 start, but missed the playoffs after a four-game losing streak put them at 6-4 and the team never grabbed the bull by the horns and got knocked out of the playoffs on the final play of the season at Arizona.
The Vikings started the 2004 season at 5-1, but snuck into the playoffs with an 8-8 record after posting three multi-game losing streaks over the final 10 games. However, Tice will be etched in the history of the Vikings for that same 2004 season. For the first time in franchise history, the Vikings met the Packers in the playoffs. At Lambeau Field, no less. In what can only be viewed as one of the great upsets in postseason history – and the fabled lore of both the Vikings and Packers – the Vikings won the first (and, to date, only) postseason meeting between the teams in a convincing 31-17 win.
A year later, viewed publicly as the dean of boys of Delta House in the aftermath of the Love Boat scandal, Tice was relieved of his duties and his head coaching career in the NFL seemed destined to go down in flames in the process.
He was hired on as the offensive line coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The hiring was seen more as the rampant nepotism that takes place in the NFL, where head coaches hire coaches they have worked with or players that were teammates. Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio knew Tice as teammates with the Vikings (just as Leslie Frazier was intimately familiar with Mike Singletary before hiring him to be the team's linebackers coach). The similarities between the coaching journeys Tice and Singletary have gone through are striking.
Tice came to the Bears with the business card tag of assistant head coach on his résumé, which made the move from Jacksonville to Chicago more than simply a lateral move. Martz was already in place and the Bears were learning his complicated, voluminous offense. With Martz out and Tice in, the Vikings will have to prepare for a more traditional Bears offense in 2012, as Tice is likely to bring back a more old-school approach to the Chicago offense.
When the Vikings printed the media alert to announce the firing of Tice before he had been informed, it appeared as though his days as a head coach were over. With Friday's announcement, it would appear that Tice is one step closer to potentially getting back into the head coaching mix when future jobs come open. If the Bears can return to the playoffs any time soon, we may see the Big Galoot back in charge of an NFL team again.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.