Tice as offensive coordinator a risky call

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Tice as offensive coordinator a risky call

Now that it looks like Mike Tice will have total control of the Bears offense and the plays that are called, it brings up an interesting debate. Why did the Bears decide against a passing game coordinator, especially when Tice has never been involved in previous NFL passing games?

Let's be clear, if you think calling plays is about picking a call off a play sheet, you are wrong. Dead wrong.

A good coordinator or play caller is as valuable or more than a head coach, hence the seven figure annual salaries most coordinators are hauling in these days.

A good coordinator in the NFL MUST have a great feel for the passing game. We can all call runs to the right, and runs to the left.

Designing a passing attack and knowing when to call the plays is an art. There is a reason some guys remain coordinators for several years in the league and others are one and done guys or never get the chance.

Play design: knowing the looks your offense will get in each area and situation on the field, coming out of end zone, middle of field, red zone and goal line.

That includes what look you get from each hash mark and with the ball in middle of the field. How do they lineup against each personnel group that you use? What coverages do you get in each area of field against those personnel groupings? (Groupings are the five guys outside of offensive line and QB since they are on field for every play, such as: 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE -- or 3 WR, 2 TE -- or 4 WR, 1 RB etc...)

Now what play will work against any anticipated look? Will you get straight man, zone or a combo coverage or one of any other hundred looks? Are you trying to pull a linebacker over to open a zone, run guys across field to beat man, use play action to open area between backers and safeties, pull a safety out of hole, create a high low read on the corner (if corner drops deep, you throw to flat, if corner sits on flat you throw behind him)?

Knowing how to beat coverages and anticipating when to call plays is something that is learned. Sometimes you call a play early in a game against a certain formation just to see the look you will get. Later in the game, you remember the look (coverage) and call a play that you know should beat it. Understanding how to set up plays is what good coordinators can do. They beat you in a chess game.

The Bears are betting Mike Tice can win in the chess game, even though it's not how he made his name as a coach. It's worth pointing out most offensive coordinators have served as quarterbacks or receivers coaches because they are the two positions that are heavily involved in the passing game and understand coverages and play design.

It's not to say what the Bears are doing won't work, but it's certainly a risky road to travel.

Bears announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule:

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

Quintin Demps set a career high in interceptions last year by not doing anything different. And that’s the message he’s sending a defense that generated only 11 takeaways in 2016, tied for the lowest single-season total in NFL history. 

Demps went from picking off four passes in both 2013 with the Kansas City Chiefs and 2014 with the New York Giants to notching just one interception with the Houston Texans in 2015. In 2016, though, Demps intercepted six passes, broke up nine more and totaled 38 tackles. 

“Turnovers are like, it’s not something that you go get, it’s something you let come to you by doing your job first and then helping out,” Demps said. “And then you’d be surprised how they come to you by doing your job and being aware of when you can help somebody out. A lot of times when you get help is when you get picks and turnovers.”

The danger for a defense coming off a historically bad takeaway is sort of a whiplash effect, where there’s an over-emphasis on creating turnovers and not enough attention paid to, as Demps said, “doing your job.” There’s a fine line between being opportunistic and undisciplined.

“I tell my safeties all the time, we gotta tackle first,” Demps said. “Tackle first, don’t miss any tackles and then the picks are going to come. I promise you that.”

The Bears felt positively after signs of being more opportunistic as a defense during shorts-and-helmets practices in May and June, though if that was because of any real improvements or because the defense is usually ahead of the offense is hard to tell at this stage of the year. 

The offseason program was valuable for the Bears’ secondary in growing trust within a group that had — no pun intended — plenty of turnover after the 2016 season. The hope is that the offseason additions of Demps, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Eddie Jackson will solidify the secondary and lead to something better than last year’s historically-low turnover total. 

“We’re still trying to build something, but the actual, real building happens in training camp because I think then you start to see the group start to get formed and yo know who’s going to go with the one’s, who’s going to go with the two’s, stuff like that,” Amukamara said. “So I think that starts to get formed. But I think with a lot of guys now, I think what that creates is competition and guys trying their hardest to make the team.”