What Mike Tice Brings to the Oakland Raiders


Jul 26, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice shown on the field during training camp at Falcons Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

New head coach Jack Del Rio has wasted no time in getting to work on building his staff, hiring Mike Tice away from the Atlanta Falcons to replace Tony Sparano as the offensive line coach of the Raiders. Del Rio and Tice go back two decades, having played together on the Minnesota Vikings during the early 1990’s. Tice was also Del Rio’s Assistant Head Coach and TE’s coach for four years in Jacksonville.

Mike Tice has been an NFL coach since immediately after he retired from playing, beginning his coaching career in 1996 as the TE’s coach of the Vikings under Dennis Green. Tice coached under Green in Minnesota for five seasons before replacing him at the end of the 2001 season.

Tice was then the head coach of the Vikings from 2002 through 2005, but his head coaching career was ended abruptly by a series of scandals, including his personal involvement in a ticket-scalping ring.

Tice joined Del Rio after he was ousted as a head coach, and after four years in Jacksonville was hired by the Chicago Bears as Lovie Smith’s offensive line coach. He was promoted to Bears offensive coordinator in his third year with the Bears, but was fired along with Lovie Smith to make way for Marc Trestman. Tice spent this past season working with rookie tackle Jake Matthews as the offensive line coach of the Atlanta Falcons under head coach Mike Smith, another former Del Rio assistant who some have speculated may come to Oakland to be reunited with his former boss.

Mike Tice has been a part of some mediocre offensive units in recent years, but is at the same time a very respected offensive line and tight ends coach, especially with his ability to teach and coordinate run blocking. Tice, who in 15 NFL seasons caught 107 passes, was always used as a run-blocking TE first, and one of his biggest jobs in Jacksonville was to help develop Marcedes Lewis into a blocking TE. Tice has almost always been connected to strong running games. While he was offensive line coach of the Vikings from 1997 through 2001, the Vikings averaged nearly 4.5 yards per carry over a five-year period, during which time the team rushed for over 1800 total yards four times.

When Tice became head coach of the Vikings, he accentuated the run game, utilizing quarterback Daunte Culpepper heavily as a rusher along with running backs like Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith and Moe Williams. During his run as the head man in Minnesota, the Vikings averaged nearly 4.7 yards per carry over four years. In 2002 alone, the Vikings rushed for 2,507 yards (a franchise record) and 26 TD’s with a 5.3 yard per carry average for the year.

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Reunited with his old teammate Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville, Tice became the Assistant Head Coach for the offense, then later the Tight Ends coach. Jacksonville rushed for over 2,000 yards in three of the four years Tice spent there, averaging 4.5 or more yards per carry in each of those years. When he was hired by Lovie Smith to work with the Bears offensive line, the Bears rushing game improved from 29th in the league in 2009 to 9th in the league in 2011. When Tice replaced Mike Martz as Bears’ OC in 2012, the Bears continued to run the ball well, finishing 10th in the league in rushing offense and averaging 4.2 yards per carry.

Last year, Tice was reunited with Mike Smith, who had been the defensive coordinator of the Jaguars when Mike Tice was there. Tice was hired as the offensive line coach, and tasked with working with 6th overall pick Jake Matthews as well as improving a unit that had surrendered 44 sacks the year prior and only managed 3.9 yards per carry.

Despite a season-ending training camp injury to established starting offensive tackle Sam Baker and a nagging ankle injury to Matthews, Tice did help the unit improve, giving up only 31 sacks for the year while helping the team average 4.0 yards per carry and gain nearly 16 more yards per game on the ground.

Tice will likely work to improve the Raiders run blocking and overall performance as a rushing offense, something the team was woefully inept at in 2014. He will likely also spend time helping Mychal Rivera improve as a blocker, and given his history with Del Rio, will likely have a large role in the way the running game is orchestrated and executed throughout the season. His influence will give young offensive linemen like Gabe Jackson an Menelik Watson another highly-respected and experienced offensive line coach to work with in their young careers, cushioning the loss of Tony Sparano somewhat.

If Tice is paired with an offensive coordinator like Marc Trestman, or someone else with strong credentials in the pass game, it has the potential to generate a very good balance on the offense, something that Del Rio was very fond of having on his Jacksonville teams. The advantage to hiring a veteran head coach like Del Rio is that he usually comes with connections to quality assistants. Hiring Mike Tice 24 hours after being announced as Head Coach is a great example of that. Based on the first hire to the coaching staff under Del Rio, expect coaching success out of Oakland in 2015 and beyond.