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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