Tice's Bears offense likely to resemble 2002-05 Vikings

Minnesota loved the long ball, made ample use of tight ends when Bears coordinator was head coach

If you want to know what Mike Tice's Bears offense will look like in the fall, it isn't a crystal ball you need.

It's a time machine. Set at 2003 or so.

From 2002 to 2005, Tice was head coach of the Vikings. He didn't coordinate the offense or call plays, but the Vikings offense was what Tice wanted it to be.

"Mike was very involved in the offense in Minnesota," said Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who had the same position with the Vikings for the first three years of Tice's tenure. "He was an offensive head coach. I leaned on him heavily. He had lots of very good ideas."

Tice took the existing offense, which Brian Billick and Dennis Green had designed, and put his personal stamp on it. Evident were influences from Joe Gibbs, for whom Tice played for one year; Chuck Knox, for whom Tice played for eight years; and Linehan.

Other influences are likely to show up in the Bears offense — most notably Mike Martz and especially Jeremy Bates, the Bears' new quarterbacks coach who has been acting more like the vice president of offense than the secretary of the department of passing.

But the Bears offense is Tice's baby. And this baby is likely to turn out much like its older brother from Minnesota.

That is not a bad thing.

For most of his time as head coach, Tice had a strong-armed quarterback (Daunte Culpepper) throwing to a big receiver who caused matchup problems (Randy Moss). He will have the same in Chicago with Jay Cutler firing to Brandon Marshall.

In Matt Forte, the Bears have a better, more versatile running back than the Vikings ever had under Tice. But the Vikings had an offensive line held in higher regard.

That Vikings offense was dynamic. It finished in the top four of the league in yards three times in Tice's four years, including first in 2003.

How did the offense produce so much? It hit a lot of big plays.

Perhaps because Tice is a former line coach and was a blocking tight end himself, he has been stereotyped as a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust kind of guy. One of his stated emphases when he took over the Vikings was to run the ball more.

Tice liked his inside zone running game. But he liked his big-play passing game more.

Tice's Vikings teams averaged 7.63 yards per attempt. The Bears over the same period averaged 5.68. Even Martz's pass-happy Bears last year averaged only 7.07.

Tice's quarterbacks went for the long one frequently. They attempted 82 passes of 41 yards or more, an average of 20.5 per season. The Bears attempted only seven passes of 41 yards or more last year.

"The passing game was based on getting big plays," Linehan said.

And it's not as if the passing game was playing second fiddle to Mr. Handoff.

During Tice's tenure in purple, 65 percent of the Vikings' yards came through the air. During the same period, 60 percent of the Bears' yards came via the pass. Passing also accounted for 60 percent of the Bears' yards last year.

 

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