In characteristic fashion, Mike Tice went to the podium this week for his news conference with Chicago-area media and was brutally honest.
"Right now my résumé is not very good," he said. "I'm the one calling plays, and I'm the one leading the offense. I have to find a way to do a better job for all of us."
Tice is the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, which is not something anyone would want atop their résumé these days. Even the team's 7-1 start was fueled more by a score-happy Bears defense than the offense. But, having played the past 1 1/2 games without quarterback Jay Cutler (concussion), the Bears offense has ground to a halt. After losing at home to Houston, the Bears went to San Francisco last week, losing 32-7 on Monday night in a game in which the suspect Bears offensive line was embarrassed. Niners outside linebacker Aldon Smith, lining up all over the place, got 5 1/2 of the 49ers' six sacks of backup quarterback Jason Campbell.
Heading into Sunday's home game with the Vikings, the Bears rank 30th in total offensive yards, and 31st in both sacks allowed and passing yards.
Cutler is expected to return for the game. He will have an offensive line with two new starters. The Bears, a few weeks ago cruising atop the NFC North, are now tied for first with the surging Green Bay Packers with the Vikings a game behind.
It is officially crunch time.
"Our record has been pretty good when [Cutler] has started and finished the football game," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Hopefully we can be talking about playing a full game with him in there."
So Tice's job this week? Not an easy one. Protect Cutler, which has been a problem all year.
"We're looking at everything," Tice said. "What we have to do is block better."
Tice said three of the six sacks against the 49ers came on three-step drops, which is something he said should never happen.
So, with a Jared Allen-led Vikings pass rush coming to town, Tice has made some changes:
• First, in personnel. Right tackle Gabe Carimi was benched and replaced by Jonathan Scott. Left guard Chilo Rachal was told Wednesday he was going to be benched, too, and he walked out on the team for a game. By the time he returned, he had been put on the reserve/non football injury list and his season was over. Chris Spencer will take over for Rachal.
• Second, in approach. After leaving his offensive linemen without much help in San Francisco, Tice said this week would bring a lot of help from tight ends and running backs. While Tice insisted that, at some point, players have to start winning individual battles, help will be there this week.
Especially against Allen.
"We will definitely have chip help [on Allen]," Tice said. "We have to make sure we account for him every play. He's Waldo, we have to make sure where he is, find him, and make sure we have an answer for that, without a doubt."
The bottom line is the Bears offense has to start carrying its share of the load. Having Cutler back is a start. Now Tice and his staff will have to figure out a way to keep him upright for four quarters. Give Cutler time, and the Bears have a chance.
If not? Maybe a few more folks will have to start updating their résumés.
"We're evaluating our guys to see what's going to give us the best chance to succeed and do some of the things we're trying to accomplish offensively," Tice said.