11:06 PM EDT, October 26, 2012
The standard job description for an NFL offensive coordinator does not include: "Must possess self-deprecating humor, unfailing flexibility and honest self-assessment."
Yet those qualities seem evident in the Bears workplace for Mike Tice as he modulates the egos and demands of prime-time players within the framework of the team's grand scheme.
"Coach Tice is doing an amazing job," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "He's doing a great job of just making it hard on the defensive guys, coaches included. I'm in a good spot here. Teams are going to key on guys like myself and Matt (Forte), but we just have to try to make plays for the guys around us."
Real or perceived, Tice's predecessor — Mike Martz — appeared stubborn, self-reliant and somewhat detached when it came to interacting with players and, of lesser importance, the media. In contrast, Tice comes across as engaging and more willing to listen to the suggestions from players and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates.
Of course, winning five of the first six games heightens the levity at Halas Hall in advance of Sunday's game against the Panthers. Nevertheless, indications are that a solid working relationship exists that can survive the inevitable bumps in the road.
"Well, we're 5-1," Tice said when I asked for his self-assessment. "We had one really bad game.
"I got a little ahead of myself (in the Green Bay loss). We all did offensively. Now we're starting to find our niche. (Quarterback Jay Cutler) is doing a tremendous job managing the line of scrimmage and doing the things we're asking him to do. We're going to continue to do better because we are leaving some stuff out there."
Tice's weekly media sessions have become veritable stand-up comedy routines, during which he sets himself up to be the butt of his own joke and then follows through with the zinger. Earlier this week he compared Bears backup tight end Matt Spaeth to his own playing career.
"I was a quarterback (at Maryland) who got moved to tight end (in the NFL) and then I went … to blocking tight end," Tice said. "So that tells you my athleticism or lack thereof. Spaeth is playing the best ball since he has been here and he has a 'Mike Tice' type of role where you block and have a little less (involvement) in the passing game."
On another occasion, Tice crouched behind the Halas Hall media room podium to simulate a lineman's stance while trying to articulate the difference between being 'The Guy!,' as in an offensive lineman to be admired for stellar play, as opposed to being 'The Guy,' who is being singled out for performing poorly.
Tice even was able to poke fun at the controversial sideline scene during the Bears' Monday night win against the Cowboys in Week 4 when Cutler walked away as soon as Tice sat down next to him to talk about a failed third-down conversion.
"Jay and I were talking in the cafeteria (Wednesday) … I actually sat down … he didn't get up," said Tice, pausing for comedic effect to get audience reaction.
After a bit if repartee answering a question about backup quarterback Jason Campbell's practice snaps, Tice interjected a generous dose of X's and O's coach-speak before declaring: "We need to be 6-1. Have you looked at our schedule coming up? We need to be 6-1 and we need to take care of our business."