WHAT IS IT YOU DO HERE?

RAGONE HAD BEEN TASKED WITH DE­VEL­OP­ING TRU­BISKY, BUT CHANGES HAVE MADE HIS ROLE AM­BIGU­OUS

Chicago Sun-Times - - BEARS BEAT - BY JA­SON LIESER | Jlieser@sun­times.com | @ja­sonLieser

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 Tru­biskyFoles 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. ✶

“The re­al­ity ... is that this is a pro­duc­tion league, it’s a pro­duc­tion busi­ness. Mitchell will al­ways know, off the foot­ball field, how I feel about him. That’s never go­ing to change.”

Dave Ragone

Af­ter Mitch Tru­bisky strug­gled dur­ing the 2019 sea­son, Dave Ragone (right) had his job changed from quar­ter­backs coach to “pass game co­or­di­na­tor.”

Bill La­zor (cen­ter) was brought in by the Bears to be the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor. La­zor worked with Nick Foles (left) dur­ing Foles’ Pro Bowl sea­son with the Ea­gles in 2013.

John DeFilippo

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