Dawkins on Donatell: ‘I Love That Move’

If Chip Kelly does in fact tab Ed Donatell to be his defensive coordinator, he has the backing of one of the all-time Eagle greats.

“If he’s the guy, I love that move,” said Brian Dawkins in a phone conversation with Birds 24/7.

Donatell was the defensive backs coach in Denver during Dawkins’ first two years with the Broncos. The unit finished third against the pass in their first season together before slipping to 25th in 2010. In two seasons with Denver, the team ranked seventh in opponent completion percentage (59 percent) and ninth in passing yards per game (224).

“When I first started coaching high school [after retirement] he was one of the very first people I called because I remembered some of the good techniques and drills that he would teach,” said Dawkins. “That’s how much I respect him. I think he would be a great hire because he is able to get the best out of his guys. He puts them in a good position, gives them the  tools and then lets them go play football.”

Donatell moved on to become the secondary coach in San Francisco. During the 2012 regular season, the Niners were fourth against the pass, second in points per game and third overall as a defense.

Some believe that the Eagles will name Donatell defensive coordinator once the Niners wrap up their Super Bowl run.

Besides Dawkins, the 54-year-old Donatell has worked with standout defensive backs like Ronnie Lott, Steve Atwater, Darren Sharper and Champ Bailey over his 20-plus years in the NFL. He has been the defensive coordinator for both the Packers and Falcons. Guys like cornerback Carlos Rogers seem to be benefiting from working under Donatell and 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The former Redskin posted a career-high six interceptions last season and made his first Pro Bowl.

“He is very knowledgeable, high energy and he knows his stuff,” said Dawkins. “When I say high energy, bro, I mean high energy. He’ll talk a mile a minute sometimes. But he is not hard to talk to.”

Not everything about Donatell’s resume is glowing. Most notable to Philadelphians is the fact that he was the Packers’ defensive coordinator in 2003 when Freddie Mitchell was allowed to shake loose to make the famous 4th-and-26 catch in the Eagles’ divisional-round win over Green Bay.

But it is part of a long ride in the coaching ranks that Dawkins believes will be valuable.

“He’s been around long enough, has been in a lot of different places and has learned from the different places he has been how to handle the media, the stress of the job,” said Dawkins. “I think all those lessons learned will have prepared him to do a good job here.”

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  • Mostel

    Ike Reece doesn’t like Donatell, but I was reading somewhere (maybe here or Igglesblitz) that the Freddie play was idiot Nick Barnett’s fault because he was supposed to drop deep in a zone, but came up to try to cover a shallow crossing route, so don’t blame Donatell for the idiotic moves of a short bus linebacker.

    What I like about Donatell, and Spags for that matter, is that they’re 4-3 guys when coordinating. Unless we shake a tree and find a nose tackle, a 2nd good player for DE besides Fletcher Cox, a way to make Cole / Graham / Tapp / Curry / Hunt all stand up rush OLBs, and some legal roids to make Ryans and Kendricks the size of Levon Kirkland and Chad Brown……………………………….it is stupid to move to a 3-4 right away.
    They can move to one over the next few years to be totally 3-4 in 2015, but if you look at the current roster and cap numbers (i.e. dead $ created by cutting Trent Cole if he can’t play 3-4) moving to a 3-4 now makes no sense.

    • JTR

      Someome made an excellent point on one of the talk radio shows that bears repeating here: they should not base the decision on 4-3 vs 3-4 on the players they currently have because the majority of the players they currently have are not good enough. Whether we stick with a 4-3 or move to a 3-4 this defense is going to require a major overhaul in personelle before they can be dominant, which will take time. If you are rebuilding the defense anyway, you might as well start rebuilding this year towards the scheme you want to run for the next 10 years. If Chip wants to run a 4-3 because he thinks it is a better scheme, then fine, but he should not base that decision on whether he thinks graham and hunt can transition to be stand up rush lb’s

      • Mostel

        Hold on. Hasn’t Kelly been talking about fitting playcalling and scheme to players since he’s been hired?

        • JTR

          You are right, he has, though from the times ive seen that answer has always been in response to questions about the offense and the QB.

          I think there’s a difference between not calling an option because your QB is currently Nick Foles, and deciding to run a 4-3 this year based on personelle. You can somewhat easily add an option package to your offense once you have the QB who can run it, but you would not be able to easily switch back and forth between 4-3 and 3-4 based on your personnelle.

          • Mostel

            You can do both 3-4 and 4-3 if you know what you’re doing. Atlanta switched to some 3-4 looks vs. the Niners at times and would have won doing it sans unforced turnovers. The Pats always play games with making one of the OLBs play with his hand down to make a de facto 4 man line.

          • theycallmerob

            agreed…Gus Bradley and the seahawks were notorious for that this year. Again, if playing more of a gap-control scheme, the 4-3/3-4 connotation is really more on where the players are lining up. Hell, some teams still use the “everyone wander around standing up pre-snap” defense to confuse QB’s.

            Honestly, I would not be surprised if Kelly tries to convert to a 3-4 this year simply by drafting a NT and a pass-rushing OLB, similar to what the colts did, and rebuild on the fly.

          • the only 2 guys that are going to have trouble is Ryans and Kendricks because they will be in pass coverage .

    • Cole and Graham going to rush the passer anyway they will just be standing up doing it.

  • Johnny Domino

    Ike doesn’t like him? Good hire, then.
    I’d check with Barkann.

  • Esssell

    Why do people keep bringing up 2003? That was TEN years ago. Did he remain static for the past TEN years? Or, (unlike Andy Reid) did he learn from his mistakes and grow? I vote for grow. People move on and evolve.

  • hillbillybirdsfan

    Draft a big NT and you could easily begin moving towards a 3-4. You don’t need to do it all at once. As has already been stated in the comments, lots of teams switch back and forth between 3-4 and 4-3 during the game. Work more of it in as you get more suitable players.

    • JofreyRice

      Yep. Kelly’s ability to adapt to the personnel in place doesn’t mean he’s locked into that adaptation forever. He can adapt to maximize the talent on the roster now, and build towards his vision of what he thinks would be best in the future.

      Honestly, you don’t necessarily need a huge freak-of-nature NT 350+ lbs, that can move, ala Vince Wilfork, and have to spend a top 5 pick. You can get a guy that penetrates and ties up blockers that’s just so-so, because he’s probably not going to be on the field for all 3 downs anyway; in passing situations, any 3-4 or 4-3 D is going to go into an extra DB package. Once they do that, it’s most likely that the 3-4 DE’s move inside, and the 3-4 OLBs put their hand on the ground, and rush the passer. Guys like Shaun Cody and Isaac Sopoaga aren’t setting the world on fire, but play the nose for two of the best 3-4 D’s in the league.

  • Bob

    I love that WIP is ripping the Eagles for considering Donatell because of the 4th and 26 from 10 years ago (really, 1 play defines a coordinator) however that same radio station is demanding the Eagles hire Spagnuolo who coordinated one of the worst defenses of all time this year. But yeah, that one play 10 years ago was REALLY bad…..sigh.

    • FMWarner

      Don’t take WIP as anything but mindless entertainment. Seriously, you’ll drive yourself nuts.

    • Dwest

      Don’t listen to wip they only like to stoke fire with topics that upset folks. Thats how they make money it does not matter if it is good or bad just that it increases audience. Hopefully chip understands that and makes right decision based on dc qualifications

  • atlvickfan

    I had the distinct misfortune of watching Donatell run his soft zone BS schemes with the Falcons from 2004-2006. The Eagles should want no part of this guy. Good DBs coach maybe, if Dawkins says so, but a pathetic DC.

    • atlvickfan

      And Ike Reese was a Falcon for one of those years so he would know.

      • xlGmanlx

        And who is Ike other than glorified ST player?

        • atlvickfan

          He played LB a lot when he was a Falcon. Not particularly well either from my recollection.

          • xlGmanlx

            Agreed, which is why I don’t put too much stock into his opinion.

  • knighn

    OK, Brian Dawkins likes him. That’s good.
    But how does Donovan McNabb feel about him? Hopefully Donovan doesn’t like Ed Donatell. Once Donovan started talking against hiring Chip Kelly, I knew that Chip should absolutely be the Eagles next Head Coach.

  • morgan c

    4th and 26? What about the last minute defense against Baltimore a few weeks ago? Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t be wild about the guy in charge of the secondary in that game… letting your safeties creep up to the box when Flacco needs to throw deep?!

    • theycallmerob

      Donatell had nothing to do with that, he’s currently a coach with SF not DEN

  • aaron m

    cant blame ED for 4th n 21.. players play.. coaches coach..

  • Magilacutty

    I get some of these comments about glaring holes on our defense, but consider this: Donatell took Dawkins and Denver and made a great secondary. Same in San Fran, but this time he did it with Carlos Rogers and Winfield. He takes players thought to be past their prime (Asomugha) and young talent (cromrarti) (draft picks) conditions and discipline them. They play as a unit, and they play well. We might not have as many glaring holes as you think. Nhamdi could play safety. Cromrarti could resign. It could work under the right coach. We had an oline coach yelling in broken English to a bunch of millionaires… Maybe things will be different with a coach who commands and demands respect