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The Bears dilemma with Mike Tice

On the one hand, Bears coach Lovie Smith has empowered his assistants to interview for other jobs, especially promotions. But on the other, the Bears are a difficult point in the offseason.

The NFL Combine is just 10 days away, and the Bears would have a difficult time replacing Tice, not only because of what he did in 2010 but because of who is out there to replace him.

Only a couple of jobs are unfilled, and the most high-profile ones are on the defensive side of the ball.

Staffs are largely settled, and they are collectively shifting their focus to evaluating their own rosters and looking ahead to the Combine.

Given the obvious issues to his position group, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Tice is one of the — if not the most — important assistant on Smith’s staff right now. Tice also has a track record of identifying and developing young linemen, particularly in the later rounds.

Although the Bears have their full allotment of draft picks, the club surely would prefer to leave that first-round pick open to the best player available. While that could end up being an offensive lineman, the Bears would prefer to have options. Tice’s input could help develop a strong contingency plan for players in the second- or even third-round.

But Tice has never been an offensive coordinator in the NFL, and he surely would be intrigued by that opportunity. He’s done everything else, and the Titans certainly have some weapons for him to potentially work with. The most obvious is running back Chris Johnson, but the Titans also have something else that would appeal to him: some proven offensive linemen. The Titans have to figure out what to do at quarterback, but, given his background, Tice’s insight into protections and run-blocking could actually make him an even stronger candidate.

But here’s a twist. In addition to being appreciated in Chicago, Tice is close to his son Nate, who is quarterback at the University of Wisconsin. He’s also only a short plane trip from the Twin Cities, where his daughter Adrienne lives.

So the Bears best solution may be to upgrade Tice’s contract and, perhaps, offer him an upgraded title. But one complication is that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli currently also has the title of assistant head coach.