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So long Mike Tice Happy landings somewhere else (01/04/2006)
By John Edstrom

Well fans, for having basically written Mike Tice off at midseason following the loss down in Carolina, I didn't take much satisfaction in seeing him gone last Sunday. You would think the Wilfs would have let him and the players have at least the rest of the day to savor the victory over the Bears before wielding the axe. For new owners who are supposed to be very concerned about the team's image, they handled this situation very crudely. Even those who wanted Tice gone didn't necessarily care to witness the execution.

Besides, it is pretty easy to argue that Tice should have gotten at least another year. Surely, the Purple got off to a disastrous start, but in retrospect, the first five losses were on the road to eventual playoff teams, with the exception of Atlanta, which started strong. Who would have guessed that pro-bowl center Matt Birk would be lost for the season, and that the offensive line, a strength the year before, would be a continuing disaster with Withrow, Liwienski, and Rosenthal all choosing 2005 as their year to fade?

Worse yet, who could have foreseen the near total collapse of Daunte Culpepper, from all-pro back to panicky rookie who can't find receivers and constantly loses track of the ball? I still think that can be traced to the loss of his guru, Scott Linehan, to whom cheapo McCombs would not give pocket change to stay around. (There are reports that Ol' Red cleaned out the janitor's closet at Winter Park when he left, taking all the TP and Drano back to Texas on his private jet.) If Tice must shoulder the lion's share of the blame for the Purple's rocky start, it's not like there was a full complement of personnel around to share it with.

Despite all that, I think that Tice must finally be judged by his teams that never seemed to play quite to their potential, especially in must-win games, were consistent only for being streaky, and didn't seem to be put together according to any overall winning plan. And did I mention that the former tight-end's offensive line couldn't avoid constant motion penalties?

It might well happen that Matt Birk will return to pro-bowl form next season, that Marcus Johnson and Adam Goldberg will step their games up a notch, and that Daunte Culpepper will rediscover himself and play like he did in 2004. Add a couple players on defense, a linebacker who can cover tight ends and another good pass rusher, and this team could be in 2006 what so many people hoped for this season.

And at that point, if Mike Tice indulges himself in a bitter moment or two, who could blame him? Being agile for a big man, I expect he will land on his feet, and hope things turn out better for him somewhere else.



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