As head coach Matt Nagy re-made his offensive coaching staff last year, one of the most puzzling moves was Dave Ragone‘s change in title from quarterbacks coach to passing game coordinator. What does Nagy, the supposed wizard in charge of an offense that makes its living passing the football, need with a passing game coordinator? What is he going to do? What role will be play in the quarterback competition that is playing out at Halas Hall?
Ragone has addressed the issue with reporters. Via Adam Jahns at The Athletic:
“[Ragone] indicated more than once over Zoom last week that his direct interactions will change with [quarterback Mitch] Trubisky. Unlike the coaches he’s working closely with, Ragone also doesn’t have previous experience with [quarterback Nick] Foles.
“’It’s my job to oversee other things and be where I’m needed to be for [offensive coordinator Bill] Lazor and coach Nagy,’ Ragone said. ‘The conversations with Mitchell are more so how’s my family, how are my kids. It’s been those type of conversations. To me, it’s not my role to get into those (football) conversations with him right now.'”
“‘It’s just not at this point of the juncture of the conversation would I be willing to go into details about what I’m looking for in the job,’ Ragone said. ‘More importantly, it’s just getting us on the field and executing at a high level.’
“The Bears always will have ‘us’ in mind, too. For Ragone, that means preferring to have a macro perspective of a competition that will have micro-managed qualities to it.
“‘For me, watching how this plays out is more about the offense in general than just the quarterback spot,’ Ragone said. ‘I know that’s where the spotlight will be on, but the reality is getting the other 10 guys to be in sync with whatever quarterback is going to be behind center is obviously all of our goal going forward.'”
My initial instinct when I heard about Ragone’s change in title was that Nagy wanted to make sure Trubisky still had a “Mitch guy” on the staff. They probably already knew at that point that Foles was going to be their guy in the coming competition and everyone that Nagy brought in was familiar with him.
But this probably goes farther than that. It’s now evident that, as his title suggests, that Ragone is going to have a role in the game planning and in make sure the passing offense runs well as a whole. He’s gong to be putting in extra time researching the opponents, watching film and providing extra information to Lazor and Nagy and generally being of assistance.
The question is, “Why is that necessary?” Although the passing game wasn’t anything to brag about, its accepted that the biggest problem associated with the Bears offense last year was the running game. The Bears ranked 29th overall in rushing, had the second-fewest runs of 5 to 10 yards in the league and the third-fewest plays that gained 10 yards or more according to Football Outsiders.
If the problem was in the running game, shouldn’t the Bears have a run game coordinator?
Well, maybe in a way they have.
Nagy reportedly put the running game into the hands of offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich and offensive line coach Harry Heistand last season. Both took the fall at the end of the year in part due to its failures as they were fired and replaced. A legitimate question at the time was why Nagy was using these two coaches as a scapegoat when the truth is that he was in charge of the offense. Shouldn’t he have been the one to take public responsibility?
Well, perhaps this year he is. The shifting of Ragone’s responsibilities could indicate that Nagy is planning to spend more time working on the run game while delegating more of the planning in the passing game to Ragone and Lazor. In other words, its possible that he didn’t hire a run game coordinator because he has been personally concentrating on improving it and will be filling that role himself. One can only hope so.
One thing seems certain. Although new offensive line coach Juan Castillo will reportedly have a strong say in how the run game is constructed, there will be no one this year to shift blame to if the running game is the same mess in 2020 that it was in 2019. With no “run game coordinator”, this year its all on Nagy.