Defending Your Life

With rumors circulating that Zygi Wilf will make Mike Tice a coaching casualty as early as Monday, today's season finale could be Tice's last chance to win over his new owner.

If the Vikings win today's game against the Bears, Mike Tice will have compiled a regular-season record of 32-32 in his four full years as head coach. The question that gets posed now is will that be enough to save his job?

In his four seasons, Tice has had the team at or above .500 for the last three seasons. But he has also been at the center of numerous controversies -- from benching players to draft-day debacles to ticket scalping -- that have left some with mixed feelings about how his tenure will be viewed.

Prior to Tice taking over, former coach Dennis Green found himself in similar circumstances on more than one occasion. But his teams made the playoffs in eight of his first nine seasons with the team. Every time Green's head seemed to be on the block, he found a way to win enough games to keep it. Unfortunately for Tice, his teams haven't done that.

In 2003 and 2004, the Vikings got off to hot starts, only to fizzle with 3-7 finishes. While a win today would give the Vikings seven wins in their last nine games, their horrendous start dug a hole too deep for even that finish to pull out a playoff berth.

Tice has been left hanging by Zygi Wilf, who has declined comment on the future of his coach. Wilf, a longtime Giants fans, has been rumored to have an interest in potentially bringing in former Giants head coach Jim Fassel, who enjoyed success in New York and has been praised for his player evaluation skills. Whether Wilf will look to his own experience, go after one of the hot available coaches or stick with Tice, the decision is expected to come early this week.

Wilf may well look to place his own stamp on the team and, seeing as Tice was a Red McCombs hire, he may look to go in a different direction with a coach that can share Wilf's visions of the Vikings future. If Tice is let go, there will be many people who will be saddened by it. In an era of coaches with egos as big or bigger than their star players, Tice has been a refreshing change of pace. But, in the end, Wilf is the only one who knows Tice's future with the team. Tice has several check marks in the plus and minus columns of his coaching history and, while today's game likely won't be a deciding factor in the final decision, if nothing else, it will give Tice a chance to make Wilf's decision a little bit harder.

GAMEDAY NOTES
* The Vikings have a 47-40-2 overall record vs. the Bears, including a playoff loss at the Metrodome. At home, the Vikings have compiled a 27-18 record vs. the Bears.
* Since Week 8 of the 2005 season, the Vikings have been ranked no higher than 13th in both total offense and total defense among the 16 teams in the NFC.
* With a victory today, Brad Johnson will move into sixth place all time for wins among starting quarterbacks for the Vikings. He is currently tied for sixth place with Warren Moon at 21 victories.
* The Vikings have matched a franchise record with eight games without throwing an interception -- something that seemed almost impossible considering their awful start.
* Bears QB Rex Grossman referred to coming back to the Metrodome as "returning to the scene of the disaster" -- a torn right ACL that ended his 2004 season. He's expected to play some, but VU has been told that Kyle Orton is expected to get the starting nod.
* Tice has a 3-4 record as head coach vs. the Bears -- 3-0 at the Metrodome and 0-4 on the road.
* Former Vikings great Alan Page and Erasmus James will be the guests on the Vikings Game Day program, which airs locally in Minnesota at 10:30 a.m. today on KSTP Channel 5. The show is typically co-hosted by Rich Gannon, but he'll be replaced by our own Benchwarmer Bob for today's broadcast.
* Chicago has allowed 168 points this season -- 166 points less than the Vikings have allowed.

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