Bears’ Dave Ragone must sideline attachment to Mitch Trubisky as Nick Foles arrives
Ragone had been Trubisky’s only quarterbacks coach in the NFL until Matt Nagy made a few changes this offseason. Ragone has to shift out of being “a Mitch guy” and help the Bears make a clear-eyed decision on their starter for 2020.
For three years, Dave Ragone’s job was essentially to be “Mitch’s guy.”
He was the quarterbacks coach when the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky second overall in 2017 and withstood the coaching change from John Fox to Matt Nagy. Sure, Ragone tutored any and all quarterbacks on the roster, but his primary task was to build up Trubisky.
It’s not that simple anymore.
In the last year, Ragone has watched Trubisky go into a tailspin. He plummeted to 28th in the NFL in passer rating, and Nagy called out his grip on the playbook and ability to read coverage — factors Ragone tried to help.
The Bears traded for Nick Foles and declined Trubisky’s fifth-year option, setting up a make-or-break season. As Trubisky eyed a pivotal competition, he enlisted quarterbacking guru Jeff Christensen and sought to remake the very mechanics he tried to hone under Ragone’s supervision.
Ragone likely will be a little more hands off with Trubisky after changing from quarterbacks coach to “pass game coordinator” and seeing John DeFilippo arrive as quarterbacks coach.
Then add Foles. This is nothing like the last two seasons when Chase Daniel was there in part to be Trubisky’s mentor. The Bears acquired — and paid — Foles anticipating that he would be an upgrade. He’ll have at least an equal shot at winning the job and might even be the favorite.
“The reality ... is that this is a production league, it’s a production business,” Ragone said. “Mitchell will always know, off the football field, how I feel about him. That’s never going to change.
“The situation is let the best man go out and compete, and whoever leads their team during practice the best and shows us as coaches that they’re going to go out there and compete and play well, then I’m sure coach Nagy decides that person is the right guy to lead the football team.”
Ragone isn’t the only one who needs to make a concerted effort to view the Trubisky-Foles battle through clear eyes.
DeFilippo said friends have elbowed him with assumptions that he’s squarely in Foles’ corner and responded by saying, “We would be doing a disservice to our fans, our organization [and] our ownership if we put any bias into this at all.” New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Foles’ position coach during his Pro Bowl season in 2013, gushes about Foles anytime his name comes up, but he also praised Trubisky’s recall of the playbook in recent walkthroughs.
It’s unclear how much of a say any will get. There probably won’t be a vote. Nagy will -solicit input, but it’s his call.
That’s most likely how it’ll work with anything the Bears do offensively.
Even with “coordinator” in his title, it’s hard to tell whether Ragone was promoted or demoted. Lazor is the offensive coordinator, so Ragone clearly works under him. And it’s hard to imagine that DeFilippo, a former coordinator who previously coached Foles twice, answers to Ragone. That leaves Ragone with limited authority and no specific position to coach.
So what exactly is a pass game coordinator when there’s already a pass-first, offensive-minded coach who calls the plays, an offensive coordinator with a decade more -experience than Ragone and a veteran quarterbacks coach with longstanding ties to Foles?
“First of all, [I’m] thankful for the opportunity to move into this role that coach Nagy and the organization provided,” said Ragone, who explained that he will absorb some -responsibilities that used to be Nagy’s. “Having a chance to move into a coordinator role was something I thought was a great opportunity that I wanted to take advantage of.”
The Bears will reiterate that chain of command doesn’t matter in this case because everything will be a collaborative decision. And it’s possible to operate without a hierarchy — until they inevitably hit a point when not everyone sees something the same way.
They could reach that juncture quickly and chaotically because of the unusual -format to this preseason.
The coronavirus pandemic led to the cancelation of all offseason practices, as well as preseason games that would’ve been vital in position battles, and leaves the Bears with essentially 14 practices to watch Foles and Trubisky. Nagy has admitted that probably won’t be enough, saying the competition will be under review all season.
Everyone, Ragone included, will go into the competition with preconceptions, but the Bears can’t afford to have “Mitch guys” and “Nick guys.” Ragone needs to learn the new quarterback and be able to give an objective opinion on how he compares to Trubisky. How well he adjusts to that will have huge ramifications for the Bears and his coaching future.