Tice's Option Gives McCombs Options

When Red McCombs decided to pick up the final option year of Mike Tice's contract, it really wasn't all that much of a commitment. Instead, it still gives McCombs enough flexibility while continuing to try to sell the team.

Vikings owner Red McCombs picked up the one-year, $1 million option on coach Mike Tice's contract, informing Tice of the decision near the end of a telephone conversation about Friday's 34-31 loss to Green Bay, which cost the Vikings the NFC North division title.

"Of course, I'm very pleased," Tice said. "I think we have some unfinished business, and hopefully we can go into the tournament and make some noise. I don't see any reason why we can't. Once you get in there, everyone's defense starts 0-0, so we'll just see how it goes."

McCombs' decision to pick up the option finally ends the distractions caused by Tice's uncertainty. The deadline to pick up the option was Saturday (Jan. 1), a day before the Vikings' regular-season finale at Washington.

McCombs and team president Gary Woods set the deadline three years ago, inadvertently assuming the regular season would be over. If McCombs hadn't picked up the option, Tice's contract would have expired Jan. 31.

With the Vikings on the verge of making the playoffs — they can clinch Monday night if the Eagles beat the Rams, or next week if they beat Washington or if either the Rams or Panthers lose — McCombs' hesitation created the awkward possibility of the Vikings reaching the Feb. 6 Super Bowl (don't laugh) with a coach whose contract had expired.

Tice can still be fired after the season, but now it would cost McCombs $800,000 to do it. Whether an extension will be discussed after the season is to be determined.

"Let's win a game first," said Tice, whose team is 3-6 in its last nine games. "What right do I have to ask for an extension if we don't get into the playoffs?"

One reason McCombs picked up the option is he doesn't want to spend the going rate of $2.5 million to $5 million a year for an NFL head coach. Even with a $250,000 raise for next season, Tice still will be the lowest-paid coach in the league.

McCombs wants it that way because he has been trying to sell the team for two years. He figures the team is more attractive to a prospective owner if the head coach isn't tied up in a lucrative long-term deal.

Either way, Tice is just happy to have the opportunity to coach the Vikings for one more season, assuming he doesn't get fired next month.

"It has been a little bit of a distraction, but I don't want to use the word relief," Tice said. "I'm pleased. I want to remain the coach of this football team because we've come a long way in three years."

All of Tice's assistants, with the possible exception of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, are under contract through next season.

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