By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) America is the land of opportunity.
It is also the land of contradictions.
On one hand, as John Houseman’s Professor Charles W. Kingsfield was known for saying, you have to “earn” your chances.
But at the same time, America is known to be the land of second chances because you can be forgiven for the most egregious of errors.
Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice has a chance to get back to the top of his profession if he can help transform the offense into one of the most productive and consistent units in the league.
If he can take weapons like Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte and meld them into a cohesive attack, the Bears will have a chance to challenge the Packers and Giants for NFC superiority and earn a spot in the Super Bowl. (I’m not ignoring the 49ers, I just think Jim Harbaugh will find life a lot more difficult in Year 2 than it was when his team got every conceivable break last year.)
Tice has a wonderful opportunity to re-establish himself in the NFL. Tice was the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings from the last game of the 2001 season through 2005, taking over the team from the beleaguered Dennis Green.
The Vikings were an ordinary team under Tice’s leadership, going 32-33 in his 3-plus seasons. But Tice did not exactly distinguish himself during his head coaching tenure. He was implicated in a Super Bowl ticket-scalping scheme and he was also the Vikings’ coach when the players had their infamous party boat scandal on Lake Minnetonka in October, 2005.
Several years have passed since both of those issues and there’s a very good chance that he could earn himself another head coaching opportunity if things go well for the Bears.
He is likely to do just that. The Bears have a much better chance of being successful under Tice than they were under Mike Martz.
It’s easy to pile on Martz, but that doesn’t mean he deserves anything but criticism. In a business of egomaniacal men, Martz did not have to take a back seat to anyone.
If you think Bill Parcells or Jimmy Johnson were in it for their own glory, you might be right. But they were excellent coaches who knew the game inside and out and knew how to motivate players and get the most out of them on a consistent basis.
Martz only wanted to advance his own career. Whether he was the Rams’ offensive coordinator, their head coach or an offensive coordinator in any of his other stops, it was always all about how smart Martz was.
In the long run, he was just another guy. The Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV following the 1999 season with something called “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Martz was the offensive coordinator, Dick Vermeil was the head coach and Kurt Warner was the quarterback. Martz somehow got much of the credit for their somewhat explosive offense, but it was wide receivers coach Al Saunders who was the unsung hero by turning Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Az Hakim into monstrous receivers.
Tice will give the Bears a much more straight-forward approach on offensive than they have had in the last two years under Martz.
The presence of Brandon Marshall will give the Bears a real down-the-field passing attack, but Tice won’t fall in love with that aspect of the game. He will give Forte his share of touches as a ball carrier and a receiver and he will make sure that second-round pick Alshon Jeffrey and dependable Earl Bennett get their chances as well.
Tice will provide a gameplan that gives the Bears the best chance for winning each week. He has the weapons to turn this team into a legitimate attack that can hit the big play and control the clock.
Even the best offensive teams in the league may not have the kind of balance that the Bears will be able to provide.
It’s a huge opportunity for someone who wants to earn another chance. A number of potential employers may be willing to forgive his prior transgressions and give him a second chance to become a head coach.
It’s been a long time coming.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.