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The Effects Of a Mike Tice Departure-An Indictment of the Lovie Smith Era

The news that brand-new Offensive Coordinator Mike Tice has been requested for an interview with the Oakland Raiders caught a lot of people by surprise. Now that it seems that Tice will be interviewing next Tuesday, it's time to look at what the effects of such a move might be.

The Bears are in an exceptionally unique situation right now, given their recent history in hiring, their current headhunting, and personnel situation. And all of the current and potential problems seem to stem from their Head Coach, Lovie Smith.

The Bears find themselves in a situation not unlike that which they were in after the termination of Ron Turner's work. They had a head coach who was locked in, but with questions about the security of his position. They proceeded to search for their new coordinator, being spurned by a few candidates, before finally settling on Mike Martz, who Smith had lobbied for, while receiving some pushback from general manager Jerry Angelo.

A lot of those problems seemed to be glossed over, as the Bears rolled to an NFC Championship Game in 2010. An exposing loss to the future Champion Packers in that game started to shed a light on a lot of the problems that were occuring in this front office. Poor depth, coaching style clashes, and more. A 2011 season looked promising until the loss of two top talents, and the lack of depth at the QB position exposed a whole lot more.

Fast forward to now. Citing that lack of depth and a talent gap, the Bears let Angelo go, but retained head coach Smith. This is a move that many have questioned, given that top-notch front office personnel typically want to be in charge of the organization from their part down. However, in the interests of "continuity", retaining Smith makes sense in a perverse way.

Then, offensive coordinator Mike Martz decides that he must leave the team due to philosophical differences. This doesn't upset fans, or the team, very much, and they indeed promote offensive line coach Mike Tice to the offensive coordinator position. Again, for the sake of continuity, this makes sense, as it allows an offense that's been pummeled for a lack of talent and a lack of depth, not to have to learn a new playbook.

And now Tice is interviewing to possibly leave for a Head Coach position. While it's not necessarily likely, it's certainly a possibility.

Should Tice leave, what happens next? You're looking at an NFL team who needs to do the following:

  • Find a GM candidate who is willing to take on a team that has publicly stated they keep the Head Coach for at least the 2012 season.
  • Find an OC candidate who is willing to sign on for a coach who is most definitely under the watchful eye of that new GM candidate, with possibly only a single year commitment.
  • Watch a group of players that have been publicly stated (by your own organization) to have less talent than their direct competitors attempt to install a new offensive scheme.

Surely that seems outlandish to most people, but as mentioned above--the problems stem from the McCaskey family's apparent love/unwillingness to buy out the contract of Lovie Smith. Consider:

Were the Bears to have fired Smith along with Angelo, a new GM would have had the opportunity to install a new Head Coaching Staff, which likely would have included new coordinators, position coaches, etc. Instead, because of the decisions made surrounding the protection/retention of Lovie Smith, the Bears were forced to promote the offensive line coach to offensive coordinator, while also needing to bring in an individual to help manage the passing game.

If Tice leaves, the Bears will have trouble filling that position, and will inevitably go with a lesser candidate. Should that happen, and the Bears decide to buy out the contract of head coach Smith after the 2012 season, they will install an entirely new system for this team, after essentially wasting a year of the talent that they do have on both sides of the ball.

Barely winning record or not, the current position this team is in is directly related to Coach Smith and ownership's treatment of him. No amount of excuses based on injuries, or on anything else, should color the fact that the Chicago Bears football club will directly be feeling the effects of the Lovie Smith era much past the 2012 season.