By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Before we even got the chance to demand that he be fired, the Bears’ new “Passing-Game Coordinator” just disappeared.
The search was on to find the man whose expertise would complement that of new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, and then… poof.
Jeremy Bates was hired as quarterbacks coach, reunited with Jay Cutler after a year out of football and two years removed from a failed stint in Seattle. Nothing odd about that, since Bates was part of the conversation for the job Mike Martz got before the 2010 season, and seems nicely qualified to be the passing czar.
What is odd, though, is that the position suddenly ceased to exist.
When Tice was promoted, the Bears made it clear that a PGC was part of the plan, and set out to interview candidates. They were denied permission to talk to the Titans’ Dowell Loggains, and Tice then wanted Dirk Koetter, who instead took the OC job in Atlanta. Jedd Fisch wasn’t interested, Clyde Christiansen didn’t pan out, and Alex Van Pelt’s name was floated. Greg Olson interviewed for the position on January 12th, before he took a job with Jacksonville.
So in came Bates, but in a traditional role. Immediately after the announcement of the hire, the team informed reporters that Tice will call all the plays, will be in charge of all phases of the offense, and will be advised by positional coaches like all his NFL counterparts.
In other words, Tice is the full-fledged coordinator, and any earlier implication that he was incompetent to coach passing should be forgotten as if it was never said.
Sources tell WSCR that Tice was unhappy about the team’s public position that he needed so much help to do his job, and made his feelings known to Lovie Smith. His point was a fair one: why promote him, only to then make him look like a fool? Why send mixed messages to Cutler and the rest of the offense about who’s in charge? What would the point be in having a nominal coordinator not responsible for passing, in a league that has made that aspect more important than ever?
The good news is that Tice succeeded. He’s right.
We are told that new general manager Phil Emery also questioned the wisdom of how this was being handled, and that’s another good sign. As the hiring process went on, and Tice’s dissatisfaction became stronger, clearer and better known, the job opening changed.
Bates will have more power than predecessor Shane Day, and matters more than others at his level due only to his direct connection to the team’s most significant player. It may also so happen that he does advise Tice on passing exactly as Smith envisioned, with the chain of command better defined.
But at least they righted what could have been a wrong before it happened.
It would have been typically Bears to take something so simple, and make it confusing and weird — like they did with Emery, the de facto personnel director whose eventual GM power vests over time, like so many stock options.
Thanks to Tice speaking up, they backed off a bad idea.
We’ll take the small victories.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
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