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

Tice's Vikings threw 48 percent of the time on first down. Martz's Bears passed only 41 percent of the time on first down last year.

In the three years Culpepper was healthy, the Vikings finished ninth, third and second in the league in passing yards.

Vikings quarterbacks took their fair share of sacks and hits as a result. But not as many as Cutler has been taking in recent years.

Tice did what he had to do to help his line.

"He always said the passing game starts with protection," said former Vikings center Matt Birk, now with the Ravens. "A lot of our (downfield) shots came off play action.

"He understands the NFL game is about matchups. If your left tackle has a tough matchup in a given week, you are either going to call protections to slide to him, or the back is going to be sure to chip the defensive end on the way out. And he's not going to call 10 seven-step drops in a row."

Part of the reason the Vikings were so aggressive passing under Tice is they had the personnel to do it. But so do the Bears.

Tice takes a tailor's approach, cutting or loosening the offense so it fits the players. For instance, Culpepper was comfortable in the shotgun. The Vikings took 28 percent of their snaps from the gun under Tice.

"(The Bears) will have an identity based on the strengths of the personnel they have," Linehan said. "And they have very, very good players. I'd be surprised if it looked a whole lot different from the way things looked in Minnesota."

Another likely carry-over for Tice is his ambitious use of tight ends. In Minnesota, he used multiple-tight-end formations 43 percent of the time. One of his favorite personnel groupings included one back, two wide receivers and two tight ends.

Tice didn't have Pro Bowl talent at the position, but a tight end led his offense in receptions twice and finished third twice. The player who led the Vikings in receptions twice was Jermaine Wiggins, a journeyman who never came close to having the kind of numbers he had under Tice in four previous NFL seasons.

"What he will do is stick with what players do best," said former quarterback Brad Johnson, who played for Tice and also was his teammate. "He won't get overcomplicated as far as having too many plays."

Tice also won't get overcomplicated in terms for play calls, if the past is an indicator.

"The system we had makes sense as far as the verbiage in a huddle," Johnson said. "It's easy to call a play. It's easy for rookies and free agents coming in to learn it. It was probably the easiest of the six systems I played in to learn."

Vikings quarterbacks could change from run to pass with a one-word code the moment they saw a safety crowding the box.

"We had a pretty good system," said Birk, who estimated the Vikings audibled up to 15 times a game. "Daunte and Randy hooked up a lot of times on that audible."

There will be new twists in Tice's Bears offense. But the template for it can be found in an old Vikings playbook.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei
 

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