BOURBONNAIS – During his 14-year career as a tight end in the NFL, Mike Tice always hated it when coaches sugarcoated their messages to him.
“I didn’t really enjoy playing for the coaches that told me what I wanted to hear,” said Tice, whose career included stints in Seattle, Washington and Minnesota. “I’d rather be told, ‘You can’t run. You’re going to be in there when we’re blocking,’ or whatever, as opposed to some guy telling me some [baloney] that I knew was [baloney].”
Thus explained Tice’s unflinching assessment of his struggling left tackle Monday.
The Bears’ first-year offensive coordinator ripped J’Marcus Webb in his first comments since the Bears’ 31-3 loss in their preseason opener against the Denver Broncos. Tice’s criticisms preceded an evening practice at Olivet Nazarene University, where the Bears prepared for their second preseason game Saturday against the Washington Redskins.
That game will represent a second chance for Webb, who played deep into the second half against the Broncos after every other starter on the Bears had left the game. Some observers speculated Tice was sending a message to Webb by forcing him to play against third- and fourth-stringers, but Tice disputed that notion Monday.
“I know some people have said I’m sending a message to J’Marcus,” Tice said. “You have to understand how I work. There’s no message being sent.
“Anything that goes on with the players, they know up front in the meeting. They know how much they’re going to play. They’re told why there’s competition at certain positions. They’re told, each day, where we need to see them improve in what areas.
“There’s no secrets. I don’t operate like that.”
This is how Tice operates: Praise those who play well, criticize those who do not.
When asked whether Webb had lost his grip on the starting job, Tice failed to stifle a smirk.
“Did you not go to the game?” Tice said teasingly. “You went to the game, right? OK, you saw the same thing I saw. I have trouble sleeping at night until I know that our quarterback is protected. … We have to make sure that we’re protecting our quarterback.”
If Webb continues to struggle, then fifth-year veteran Chris Williams will take his job. Williams will share first-team repetitions with Webb on Saturday, Tice said, because coaches want to see how each player performs against the Redskins’ starting defense.
“I felt Chris had a solid game,” Tice said. “I didn’t feel like the other player was up to par, as far as the standards we’re trying to set to protect our quarterbacks. So we’re going to continue to make sure that we continue to see who is going to emerge there as the guy.”
Last season, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz did little to help the offensive line by calling slow-developing plays that required Jay Cutler to drop back seven steps in the pocket. But that is not the case in Tice’s offense, which frequently relies on rollouts and quick throws.
“There’s nothing they can do,” Tice said when asked whether the quarterbacks could do more to help the offensive line. “They’re doing a great job of moving in the pocket.
“It’s up to the line to step up and do a better job. It’s up to me to make sure we scheme it right and make sure we’re not exposing anybody that might not be up to par right now.”
It’s clear which player has been subpar. Just ask Tice.
“There are no mind games,” Tice said. “I tell them everything. It’s ‘keep it real.’
“Here it is. This is what I’m seeing. And if you don’t like it, fix it.”