Coach Lovie Smith remarked after this season that every coach on our staffyou would like to see them take another step. He may get his wish, unfortunately for his own staff fortunes.
The Oakland Raiders have requested permission to interview offensive coordinator Mike Tice for their vacant head-coaching job, a story first reported by the Tribune. The Bears dont have a choice but to give that permission, since under NFL rules, assistants are always permitted to explore head-coaching jobs even if still under contract to their current team.
The Raiders have an extensive candidate list numbering nearly a dozen, and new general manager Reggie McKenzie has those and potentially others to evaluate.
The problem for the Bears, however, is potentially serious.
They and Tice, a former head coach with the Minnesota Vikings while McKenzie was a member of the Green Bay Packers front office, are in the process of hiring a passing-game coordinator as a top Tice assistant. Former quarterbacks coach Greg Olsen has been interviewed and others are on Tices list.
But that process now potentially grinds to a dangerous halt until the Tice-Oakland situation plays itself out. Indeed, if Tice leaves, the Bears could well be interviewing those candidates, possibly including Clyde Christensen of the Indianapolis Colts, for the full coordinators position.
Tice was promoted from offensive line coach to coordinator just days after the Bears parted ways with Mike Martz. He has been a dominant influence on the offense over the past two years, directing an offensive line that was key in the Bears rushing for 2,015 yards in 2011 despite losing quarterback Jay Cutler after 10 games and Matt Forte two games later.
Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents.
That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?
The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room).
So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure.
Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return.
“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”
If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length.
Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16
Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game?
Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.
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