The Impact of the Ex-Head Coach: Mike Tice Edition

BOURBONNAIS IL - JULY 30: Offensive line coach Mike Tice of the Chicago Bears walks out for a summer training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University on July 30 2010 in Bourbonnais Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Last weekend we looked at the first drafts of two members of the Bears' current coaching staff while they were head coaches elsewhere: Mike Martz's 2000 Rams and Rod Marinelli's 2007 Lions (a staff that also included Martz as OC). Today we'll complete the trio as we look at the first draft of offensive line guru Mike Tice as a head coach, taking over for Dennis Green during the 2001 season with the Minnesota Vikings.

In week 17 of the 2001 season, Mike Tice took over a team that would finish the season 5-11; a team with a very serviceable, young Daunte Culpepper; young Randy Moss, young Pro Bowl center Matt Birk, and Pro Bowl TE Byron Chamberlain, not to mention 14-year veteran Cris Carter. The team had also just spend a first-round pick, #27 overall, on running back Michael Bennett, who gave the Vikings, in 13 starts, 172 rushing attempts and 29 catches for over 900 yards from scrimmage and 3 TDs.

Defensively, however, the Vikings were nothing to write home about, especially when it came to ball-hawking and stopping the run.

The stats for the 2001 season are found here... 

Offense: 290 points (24th), 5185 yards (12th), 3576 passing yards (7th), 23 touchdowns with 23 INTs (9th, 27th), 1609 rushing yards (25th) with 10 TDs (20th).

Defense: 390 points allowed (26th), 5666 yards (27th), 3367 passing yards (18th), 16 TDs with 8 INTs (7th, 31st), 2299 rushing yards (30th) with 21 TDs (31st)

Offensively, what jumps out first are the interceptions and the rushing effectiveness, or lack thereof. Culpepper's mobility was a huge asset (sound familiar?), as he alone had half the team's rushing touchdowns (5). As a whole, the team barely averaged 100 yards rushing per game; Bennett, the primary back, only 52.5 yards per game with a 4.0 yards per attempt. The problem isn't that Bennett couldn't run the ball; it's that the 2001 Vikings didn't run the ball. The Vikings had 555 passing attempts and another 47 sacks, with only 376 rushing attempts for the season.

Then again, relying so heavily on the pass allows the Vikings to throw 23 interceptions, including Spergon Wynn's (who?) stellar 1-6 TD/INT ratio. Culpepper himself had a decent year in his eleven games before having his season ended by a sprained knee (coincidentally, the year he appeared on the cover of Madden...), with 14 touchdowns, thirteen interceptions and 2,612 yards despite being sacked (or tackled in the backfield) 33 times. 

Moss had a great year, catching 82 passes for 1,233 yards and 10 TDs. 

Defensively, what jumps out is the lack of playmaking and stopping the run. Rookie CB Eric Kelly and SS Robert Griffith had 2 interceptions each, FS Orlando Thomas added another, and the other three went between two linebackers (Kailee Wong and Ed McDaniel) and DE Talance Sawyer. Sawyer also led all defensive linemen with 35 tackles. 

The Vikings allowed 4.8 yards per attempt on the ground, good for 31st in the league, on 477 rushing attempts. For the season, the Vikings' opponents attacked with almost 50-50 balance between the run and the pass, but the vulnerability to the run is to me what brought the whole defense down. The line couldn't get into the backfield much at all; the Vikings had 30 sacks on the year (27th ranked in the NFL, ahead of Carolina's 26, Washington's 25, Dallas's 24, and Arizona's 19), indicating a lack of pressure on the QB, but also an inability to shed blockers and penetrate to stop the run. In five of the Vikings' games that season, they allowed less than 100 yards. In five other games, they allowed more than 180 yards. Four two-hundred yard games (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Philadelphia). Some very rush-based offenses and very good running backs to be sure, but that's some pretty bad rushing defense regardless.

So now that I've looked at what I perceive to be the strengths and issues with the team, what did Tice and the Vikings braintrust do?

Rnd 1, Pick 7: OT Bryant McKinnie (9 years and one Pro Bowl's worth of high-quality starting offensive tackle)

Rnd 2, Pick 38: LB Raonall Smith (played sparingly for the Vikings over three seasons, 9 starts in 30 games, one interception, one sack, 52 tackles. Went to STL for two years, collected a sack and a half in 20 games, and was done in 2007)

Rnd 3, Pick 70: DB Willie Offord (played four years for Minnesota, making 7 starts in 47 games. Recorded two interceptions and 43 tackles, done after 2005)

Rnd 4, Pick 105: DB Brian Williams (spent four years with Minnesota; one interception in 2002, but 12 over his Vikings career, including one for a TD in 2003; spent three years with JAX and two with ATL. Made 48 starts in 62 games with MIN, 45 in 45 with JAX, and 6 in 21 with ATL)

Rnd 4, Pick 132: OG Edward Ta'amu (Nothing.)

Rnd 6, Pick 177: LB Nick Rogers (played two years with the Vikings, starting 16 games in 32. Played the next year with GNB [10 games] and IND [1], then played three with MIA in 2005. Picked up 44 tackles and 2 sacks with MIN)

Rnd 7, Pick 218: OT Chad Beasley (played in 8 games with the Vikings, then was out of the NFL)

To sum it up, two OTs, an OG, two DBs and 2 LBs. You'll notice this is the first of the three that grabbed an offensive lineman with the first pick, and not a skill-position player.

So how did the next season turn out? Only 6-10, yet with several noticeable improvements.

Offense: 390 points (8th), 6192 yards (2nd), 3685 passing yards (9th), 19 TDs to 23 INTs (20th, 30th), 2507 rushing yards (1st) and 26 TDs (1st), with a 5.3 yards per carry (1st).

Defense: 442 points (30th), 5769 yards (26th), 4103 passing yards (29th), 33 TDs to 16 INTs (32nd, 19th), 1666 rushing yards (10th), 15 TDs (17th)

The rushing offense improved drastically. Bennett recorded a full 16 games for 1296 rushing yards and 5 TDs, but Culpepper's mobility robbed Bennett of potentially another 10. Yardage-wise, Culpepper had another great season, but his TD/INT ratio of 18-23 was cause for concern. Moss had a Pro Bowl season (his fourth), catching 106 balls for 1347 yards and 7 TDs.

The defense, however, continued to disappoint. Lack of turnovers continued to be a problem, although the rushing defense improved drastically. Problems continued to mount in the secondary as the Vikings allowed the 4th most passing yards and the most passing touchdowns, though improving to the middle of the pack by doubling upon 2001's 8 INTs. 

You'll notice, of course, this is the third straight we've looked at where the offense improved, but the defense suffered. Next weekend, we'll attempt to put it all together into one combined projection of what might happen in 2011.

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