Bears promote Tice to offensive coordinator

  • Article by: ANDREW SELIGMAN , Associated Press
  • Updated: January 7, 2012 - 2:19 AM

The former Vikings coach becomes a coordinator for the first time, replacing the departed Mike Martz.

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Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice in December 2010.

Photo: M. Spencer Green, Associated Press

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LAKE FOREST, ILL. - The Chicago Bears promoted offensive line coach Mike Tice to offensive coordinator Friday, replacing the departed Mike Martz.

The move came less than a week after the Bears completed a disappointing 8-8 season. They parted with Martz, who had an expiring contract, on the same day general manager Jerry Angelo was fired.

"[Coach Lovie Smith] and I share a similar mindset of what the Bears offense should look and feel like," Tice said in a statement released by the team. "There will be a toughness about us. We are going to be a powerful run team and we're going to be able to mix in explosive pass plays. It will be important for us to utilize the talents of our players and exploit matchups each Sunday. We have athletes we can build with."

Smith praised Tice as a "a valuable member of our staff over the past two years" with "an excellent track record in the NFL" who shares a similar vision for the offense.

"We want to be a strong running team with a big-play pass attack," said Smith, who interviewed Tice on Thursday.

This will be the first coordinator job for Tice, who just completed his second season as the Bears' line coach. He spent the previous four seasons as an assistant in Jacksonville and was the head coach in Minnesota for four years after serving as the Vikings' offensive line and tight ends coach.

The Bears will look for a new offensive line coach, although Tice will continue to have a heavy hand in that area. They are also in the market for a passing coordinator to work with their QBs after parting with Martz and quarterbacks coach Shane Day.

Of course, the biggest opening is at the top after the Bears let Angelo go following an 11-year run that produced one trip to the Super Bowl and another to the NFC championship game last season. The Bears appeared to be well on their way to another playoff run at 7-3, but injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte derailed a promising season.

They dropped five straight before finishing with a win at Minnesota and missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

The Bears were never the same after Cutler broke his right thumb trying to make a tackle following an interception late in a win over San Diego on Nov. 20, and they took another big hit two weeks later when Forte sprained a ligament in his right knee early in a loss to Kansas City.

By then, they were well into their free-fall.

As the losses piled up, speculation that Martz would be gone mounted, and Tice was widely viewed as a logical choice to replace him. The move comes nearly a year after the Bears denied Tennessee permission to interview Tice for its offensive coordinator opening. Instead, they gave him a one-year contract extension through 2012.

Now, he will become Smith's fourth offensive coordinator since he became the Bears' coach in 2004.

Even though the offensive line ranked 27th this season and 32nd a year ago, Tice was widely praised for getting the most out of an undermanned unit. Both years, the line performed better as the year wore on, particularly after the Bears committed more to the running game and got away from the deep quarterback drops that Martz preferred.

With Forte leading the way, the Bears ran for 2,015 yards this season -- just the second time in 21 years they passed the 2,000-yard rushing mark -- even though they lost two starters on the offensive line. First-round draft pick Gabe Carimi missed most of his rookie season with a knee injury after starting the first two games at right tackle and left guard Chris Williams went on injured reserve with a dislocated left wrist in November.

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