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From ‘Rags’ to riches? How Dave Ragone mentors QB Mitch Trubisky through good and bad

The Bears believe Ragone will be a head coach some day. To get there, he must help solve the most vexing issue at Halas Hall: to ensure Trubisky is at his best each week.

Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, left, throws a ball as quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone looks on during training camp.
AP Photos

Broncos coach Vic Fangio has played golf with Bears quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone since 2003, when Fangio was the Texans’ defensive coordinator and Ragone suited up for the scout team.

He’s typically a dozen strokes worse than Ragone — except for one day a few years ago at Bob O’Link Golf Club in Highland Park, when Fangio, then the Bears’ coordinator, won straight up.

“It was the biggest upset in sports,” Fangio said.

Ragone is probably the best golfer in Halas Hall, but that’s far down on his resume. The lefty quarterback was a three-time Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year at Louisville and won a similar award playing for Berlin in NFL Europe. He worked as a morning radio sports-talk host in Kentucky, coached quarterbacks and receivers for the Titans and, in his fourth season, is somehow the longest-tenured Bears assistant.

The Bears believe Ragone will be a head coach some day.

And he doesn’t turn 40 until next month.

“He has a phenomenal future ahead of him,” coach Matt Nagy said.

To get there, he must help solve the most vexing issue at Halas Hall: to ensure Mitch Trubisky is at his best each week.

Perhaps no one in the building is closer to Trubisky. Ragone has been his quarterbacks coach since he was drafted in 2017.

Ragone and Trubisky have a “beautiful relationship,” Nagy said.

“I have a very good feel of who he is as a person — player second, person first,” Ragone said. “I think I understand how he ticks, what motivates him. So I obviously am in-tuned to everything that goes on. I’m self-aware of all of it.

“It doesn’t mean I change my approach. I think a relationship is open, honest and transparent.”

That honesty starts with the morning-after evaluation. After Trubisky’s rough outing against the Packers, Ragone examined his eyes, feet, decisions and demeanor.

“We’re honest with each other. We spend a lot of time together watching the film, going over it,” Trubisky said. “But we don’t always dwell on the negative things. We take away what we grew from — where there was good throws, where we made good decisions — but we also fix what was wrong.”

When everyone’s feelings are still raw, Ragone can be clinical.

“I think just the relationship we have, how close we are, we’re able to put the emotions to the side of it,” Trubisky said. “And say, ‘All right, look, we really need to fix this. We need to get better this week.’

“It doesn’t matter how we feel about it. That really doesn’t matter because we’ve got a job to do and we’ve got to make sure that result doesn’t occur again.”

Ragone is part taskmaster, part college professor and — yes — part golf caddy, whispering words of confidence to his quarterback during the week.

He didn’t try to shelter Trubisky from outside criticism after he posted a 62.1 passer rating in the 10-3 loss, saying he knew it was “part of the deal” when a quarterback struggles, be it in a nationally televised opener or not.

“Confidence comes from within,” Ragone said. “As much as I would want every one of the guys I coach be confident, at the end of the day, at this position, anyone who’s played it, you have to have self-confidence at first. There’s no blink in terms of that, in how I see [Trubisky]. That’s not a concern of mine.”

Ragone took responsibility for Trubisky’s mistakes — “Not to be a martyr,” he said — the way a teacher does when his students all do poorly on a test.

“If I’m trying to correct them, it’s not me vs. them,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s my job to make sure we stay with the good things that [Trubisky’s] doing well and correct the things that he needs to improve on.

“That’s how he’s evaluated, I’m evaluated.”

But it’s more nuanced than that.

“[They have a] beautiful relationship on and off the field, just being a mentor and a teacher to Mitchell,” Nagy said of Ragone. “I have a lot of respect for that. I came through that.”

A former Eagles and Chiefs quarterbacks coach, Nagy knows what comes with the job: Ragone is both the filter between Trubisky and his head coach, and the conduit coming back the other way.

“There’s a finesse to it where, because you’re in the room and you’re listening, you’re a sounding pad for everything that Mitch has,” Nagy said. “The complaints, the likes, everything. The quarterback’s gonna vent to you, so you’ve gotta take it all.

“And then you’ve gotta somehow filter that the right way to the head coach.”

Ragone’s attention to detail is good for Trubisky, backup quarterback Chase Daniel said, and his work ethic has helped earn Nagy’s trust.

“You can see, he has the mind,” Daniel said.

The best position coaches, Nagy said, aren’t afraid to speak up when their players don’t like a specific play their head coach is calling.

“Rags has an extreme amount of passion for doing well,” Nagy said. “And then if there’s a problem, fixing it.”

The Bears’ season might swing on it.

“The fact that he’s played our position, he knows the thought process that goes into it after a loss and how you try to bounce back,” third-string quarterback Tyler Bray said. “He does a great job of relating to us, how we’re feeling, and to take that and try to move it forward.

“Not to forget about it, but let’s move on. It’s one game. It doesn’t define our season.”

That started the morning after the Packers game.

“No team is waiting for us,” Ragone said. “For us, it’s about moving on and making sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes.”