Hoping to turn around the NFL’s worst rushing attack, the Atlanta Falcons have hired former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice as their offensive line coach.
Tice will be the Falcons’ third offensive line coach in four seasons. The team fired Pat Hill after two seasons and parted ways with Paul Boudreau after the 2011 season.
Tice, a former NFL tight end, has 17 years of coaching experience in the NFL, including seven as an offensive line coach. In 2011, as the offensive line coach with Chicago, Tice helped the Bears to rush for 2,015 yards.
At the conclusion of a 4-12 season in which owner Arthur Blank characterized the disappointment level as "severe," Atlanta head coach Mike Smith said that the team needs to do a better job winning the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense. To that end, the team did not renew Hill, offensive line assistant Paul Dunn, who had been with the team since Smith arrived in 2008, and defensive line coach Ray Hamilton, who also had been with Smith since his arrival. (The Falcons have yet to fill the latter two positions.)
In a news conference Monday, Blank said he did not think that the Falcons were tough enough along the line of scrimmage.
The expectation is that Tice will bring that toughness.
As has occurred in recent seasons when Smith has had to fill vacancies on his coaching staff, he has gone with someone he’s worked with in the past. He and Tice were on Jacksonville’s staff together in 2006 and 2007. Tice also worked with Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter with the Jaguars. Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan are among Smith’s recent hires in Atlanta with whom he also worked previously in his NFL coaching career.
Blank said monday that Smith wants to return to the philosophy he espoused early in his Falcons tenure in terms of ball control and emphasizing the run. That would be one way to take the heat off quarterback Matt Ryan, who was battered by 44 sacks this season and many more unofficial hits. Tice’s lines in Chicago did not have the greatest success pass-blocking, but if the Falcons can run the ball, the Falcons’ passing game with Ryan, Julio Jones and a healthy Roddy White should be much more effective in 2014.