Ed Donatell

Coaching Notes: Jets, Lewis, Bears, Daboll

The Adam GaseGregg Williams arranged marriage dissolved at the 11th hour, after the defensive coordinator’s bizarre final-seconds play call ended up keeping the Jets winless. To some degree, Gase had soured on the polarizing DC earlier this season. The second-year Gang Green head coach “fumed” after Williams’ indirect shot at the Jets’ offense, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes, adding that the soon-to-be-fired HC was upset Williams voiced frustration in that manner. In a split setup in which Gase ran the offense and Williams oversaw the defense, Cimini adds Gase would learn of Williams’ defensive lineup changes on Fridays before games on certain occasions. This regime’s issues may cause the Jets to re-evaluate how they pair coaches next year.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Josh Allen‘s rise could well push Bills OC Brian Daboll to a coaching job in 2021. The expectation around the league is that the third-year Bills coordinator will land an HC gig, Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com note. Several jobs will be available, and the ESPN duo adds that the Chargers — given that Daboll and Bolts GM Tom Telesco went to high school together — may be the destination to monitor. While the Chargers have not fired Anthony Lynn, who is well-liked by Bolts players, the team is 3-9 after a 5-11 season. This would point to Lynn likely being ousted after his fourth season in Los Angeles.
  • Unlike the Texans, the Falcons and Lions will not be using a search firm as they look for new HCs, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Longtime front office exec Rich McKay will presumably lead Atlanta’s search, while team president Rod Wood remains in power in Detroit.
  • After two seasons out of the NFL, Marvin Lewis has resurfaced on coaching radars. The longtime Bengals HC’s name has continued to come up for possible 2021 gigs, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah tweets. He is expected to land interviews, according to ESPN. Lewis interviewed for the Cowboys post that went to Mike McCarthy and was connected to the Washington job that went to Ron Rivera. The Vikings also sought him for a defensive role in 2019. Lewis, 62, currently serves as Arizona State’s co-defensive coordinator under Herm Edwards.
  • While Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald would stand to be the Bearstop choice — were they to replace Matt Nagy — the prospect of the longtime Big Ten leader rising to the NFL is quiet, per Graziano and Fowler. After Northwestern’s 2018 season, Fitzgerald said he would not consider NFL jobs. But the pandemic may have made him more receptive to making the jump. The Bears figure to be the leading candidate, were Fitzgerald to express interest. And Bears minority owner Pat Ryan, also a Northwestern alum, is a big fan of the current Wildcats HC, per ESPN.
  • The Broncos will have their defensive coordinator back after his extensive bout with COVID-19, Mike Klis of 9News notes. Ed Donatell, 63, believed he was nearly recovered from the coronavirus, but on Day 9 of his battle with it, he experienced symptoms severe enough he needed to be hospitalized. The second-year Denver DC, who had never previously missed a game in his coaching career, missed six games. He will coach from the press box Sunday against the Panthers.

AFC West Notes: Broncos, Brown, Chiefs

Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell required hospitalization after contracting the coronavirus, according to the team. The second-year Denver DC was hospitalized last week but discharged Sunday, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. He remains away from the team, recovering at home. Donatell, 63, has been battling COVID-19 symptoms since Oct. 31 and has missed the past three games. Donatell, who is in his third stint with the franchise, one of a few Broncos staffers to have contracted the virus. Running backs coach Curtis Modkins did so in October, and offensive line coach Mike Munchak was in the team’s COVID protocol. GM John Elway and team president Joe Ellis tested positive for the virus. Elway announced he has recovered, while Ellis has been in quarantine for nearly three weeks and has yet to be cleared to return, Klis notes.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • The NFL has expressed “serious concern” about the outbreak among Broncos staffers, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. The league and the NFLPA have continued to stress the importance of non-players adhering to the evolving COVID-19 protocols, per JLC.
  • The Raiders have been the league’s chief culprits at violating the NFL’s coronavirus policies, and their latest issue — Clelin Ferrell‘s positive test causing half the team’s starting defense to land on the reserve/COVID-19 list — could conceivably prompt the NFL to move another Las Vegas Sunday-night tilt off of primetime. As of Wednesday evening, however, the league has no plans to change the start time for Week 11’s Raiders-Chiefs rematch, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The NFL moved Week 7’s Buccaneers-Raiders game to a Sunday-afternoon window after Trent Brown‘s positive test caused Las Vegas’ starting O-line to miss a week’s worth of workouts.
  • Speaking of Brown, the mammoth right tackle remains on the Raiders’ COVID list. However, a hope exists Brown can receive clearance to resume workouts next week, Schefter tweets. Brown is naturally at higher risk of developing severe symptoms from the virus compared to most players, due to his weight (380 pounds), but he wants to play again this season. The Raiders have placed Brown on their virus list twice this year, the second time due to a pregame issue in Cleveland resulting in the 27-year-old blocker being hospitalized.
  • While Justin Simmons has not made an issue of his contract since he and the Broncos failed to come to an extension agreement in July, he would prefer to stay with the team, per the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran. The floor for the standout safety will likely be $14MM per year on a long-term deal, with five safeties signing deals worth $14MM AAV or more since March 2019. Simmons has played every snap for the Broncos this season and ranks as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest-graded safety, a year after he landed second on PFF’s list. Citing the pandemic, Simmons said, via O’Halloran, he is grateful for his setup (an $11.4MM franchise tag salary). This comes after he expressed disappointment no deal emerged this summer. If the Broncos tag Simmons again, he would be entitled to a $13.7MM 2021 salary.
  • Former Simmons secondary mate Chris Harris will return to action soon. The Chargers designated the All-Decade cornerback to return from IR on Wednesday. The team has three weeks to activate him. Harris, who signed a two-year deal worth $17.5MM in March, has been out since Week 2 because of a foot injury.

Ed Donatell To Be Named Broncos DC

The Ed Donatell Denver return escalated quickly. The Broncos are naming the Bears’ defensive backs coach as their next defensive coordinator, Mike Klis of 9News reports (on Twitter).

Long rumored to be a candidate to follow Vic Fangio to Denver, Donatell will succeed Joe Woods as the Broncos’ DC. Donatell has twice been a secondary coach with the Broncos, doing so first for five seasons under Mike Shanahan from 1995-99.

Donatell, 61, interviewed for the job on Tuesday and will now be Fangio’s right-hand man running Denver’s defense. Although Fangio will call the Broncos’ defensive plays, Donatell has extensive NFL experience. He is now a four-time DC, last serving in the role for the 2008 Redskins. Donatell left the Broncos in 2000 to become the Packers’ DC, and after a four-year stay in Green Bay, he led three Falcon defenses in the mid-2000s.

He returned to Denver to coach the 2010 Broncos’ secondary, but after Josh McDaniels‘ tenure abruptly ended, Donatell began his eight-year run working with Fangio. Serving under Fangio for four years with the 49ers, Donatell spent the past four seasons in Chicago overseeing the Bears’ secondary — one that featured 2018 Pro Bowlers Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson. The Bears led the NFL in pass-defense DVOA by a wide margin. The Bears wanted Donatell to stay as their DBs coach and work under new DC Chuck Pagano but will now have to replace another key defensive staffer.

The Broncos have regressed from their form under Wade Phillips. They featured what was probably the NFL’s best cornerback trio from 2014-17, with Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby joining Chris Harris. With Talib since traded and Roby a free agent who may well depart Colorado, Harris stands alone. Given his experience leading secondaries, Donatell figures to play a key role in attempting to revitalize the Broncos’ coverage work.

Donatell was the only known candidate to have interviewed for this job.

AFC Coaching Notes: Browns, Bengals, Bills

Freddie Kitchens‘ first Browns staff has some big names, and it will include a high-profile coach from north of the border. Sascatchewan Roughriders head coach Chris Jones will step down from that post and join the Browns’ defensive staff, according to CFL News (Twitter link). Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com confirmed (via Twitter) Jones will trek to Cleveland with the title of “senior defensive specialist.” An NFL out clause existed in Jones’ Roughriders contract. Jones has been part of four Grey Cup-winning staffs, including a 2015 championship as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos. He was also a graduate assistant under Gene Stallings at Alabama in 1997, when Kitchens was a Crimson Tide quarterback. Jones was the Roughriders’ coach for three seasons, completing two winning campaigns in his final two years there. He will join a Browns staff that now features coordinators Steve Wilks and Todd Monken.

More out of Cleveland and the latest from the AFC side of the coaching carousel:

  • The Browns also may be on the verge of reuniting Wilks and Al Holcomb, the Cardinals’ 2018 DC and former Panthers linebackers coach. Holcomb will interview for an unspecified role with the Browns on Wednesday, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (on Twitter). Multiple teams covet Holcomb, per Person. This marks the first known interview for Holcomb, who’s worked with Wilks for the past six seasons.
  • Ed Donatell and the Broncos are close on a deal that would bring the longtime Vic Fangio coworker to Denver as defensive coordinator, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. This deal figures to get done soon, with Mike Klis of 9News suggesting (via Twitter) this could be more of a formality. The Bears are trying to retain Donatell to coach their defensive backs, after giving Chuck Pagano Fangio’s old job, Klis adds. But with Donatell interviewing for a DC role — a job title he has not held in 11 years — with Fangio, it points to the Bears losing another key defensive staffer.
  • The Bills interviewed veteran offensive line coach Joe Philbin recently but will instead name Bobby Johnson as their new O-line coach, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM reports (on Twitter). This will be Johnson’s second stint in Buffalo, the first coming under Chan Gailey. Johnson’s last role in Buffalo was assistant O-line coach. In 2018, he served in that role under since-jettisoned Colts offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo. Johnson will relocate quickly. DeGuglielmo remains unattached.
  • A higher-profile Buffalo staff vacancy will be filled as well. The Bills are hiring former Panthers assistant Heath Farwell to run their special teams, Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer tweets. The 10-year NFL veteran served as an assistant ST coach with Seattle and Carolina, his Panthers tenure coming after Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott had already departed for Buffalo.
  • After Paul Alexander‘s 20-plus-year run as Bengals offensive line coach, the franchise will soon have three O-line instructors in three years. Frank Pollack is out after one season, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Pollack was previously the Cowboys’ O-line coach, and under his stewardship, the Bengals made the biggest single-season improvement in yards per carry in franchise history. Cincinnati rushers collectively averaged 4.69 yards per carry last season.

Broncos To Interview Ed Donatell For DC Job

Prior to spending eight seasons coaching alongside Vic Fangio in San Francisco and Chicago, Ed Donatell collected a pair of Super Bowl rings in Denver. The Broncos have employed the latter for two stints and may be set to bring him back.

Fangio’s new team will interview Donatell for its defensive coordinator position, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. This meeting has been rumored for a bit now, to the point it would be an upset if Donatell did not get the job. He was previously weighing between staying in Chicago or following Fangio to Denver.

This interview, the Broncos’ first for their DC job, could well be a sign he has chosen the latter path.

Donatell served as the Bears’ defensive backs coach for the past four seasons. Prior to that, he led the 49ers’ secondary. He held this position with the Broncos in the late 1990s, being on both of Mike Shanahan‘s Super Bowl-winning staffs. Donatell returned to Denver in 2010 before following Fangio and Jim Harbaugh to the Bay Area a year later.

Although he has coached secondaries throughout the 2010s, the 61-year-old assistant is a three-time DC — with the Packers (2000-03), Falcons (2004-06) and Redskins (’08). Fangio said he would call plays for Denver’s defense, so this gig would not bring the kind of responsibility many in the NFL do.

The Broncos are not retaining two-year DC Joe Woods, who has drawn interest as a DBs coach from multiple teams.

West Notes: Fitz, Wilson, Henry

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald did not announce that he would return for the 2018 season until mid-February of 2018, and it appears that we could have a similar wait in 2019. Fitz told ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier this week that he would take some time to collect his thoughts after a difficult 3-13 season, but that the team’s recent hiring of new head coach Kliff Kingsbury would not sway him one way or another. If Fitz does decide to play, he would technically be eligible for free agency, but it is impossible to imagine him playing for a team other than Arizona.

Now for more from the league’s west divisions:

  • This probably doesn’t mean much, especially in light of last week’s reports on the matter, but Kingsbury has said that he would consider drafting Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray with the Cardinals‘ No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, per ESPN’s Sam Ponder (via Twitter).
  • The Seahawks are set to begin contract negotiations with quarterback Russell Wilson, and in a piece that is well-worth a full read, Joel Corry of CBS Sports says that Wilson’s new deal will pay him at least $35MM per year.
  • After being activated on Monday, Chargers TE Hunter Henry is expected to play in the team’s divisional round showdown in Foxborough this afternoon, per Albert Breer of SI.com.
  • We heard yesterday that Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell will be a top target of new Broncos coach Vic Fangio, and Mike Klis of 9News tweets that Donatell is currently deciding between staying in Chicago or following Fangio to Denver.
  • Former Buccaneers defensive line coach Brentson Buckner will join the Raiders in the same capacity, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina will not be returning to the team, per Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Twitter).

Assistant Coaching Rumors: Broncos, Browns, Packers, Rams, Buccaneers

Now that the head coaching carousel is pretty much wrapped up, everyone’s attention will now be turning to the assistant coaching ranks. One team that has a lot to sort out is the Broncos, now that we know Gary Kubiak won’t be joining as the team’s offensive coordinator. Broncos defensive backs coach Greg Williams won’t be returning next year, according to Mike Klis of Denver 9News (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Klis writes that league sources told him Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell will be a “top target” of new Broncos coach Vic Fangio to join his defensive staff. In a third tweet, Klis notes that the Browns are targeting Chris Strausser, who currently coaches the Broncos’ offensive tackles, to join Freddie Kitchens’ staff in Cleveland.

Here’s the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Matt LaFleur is the Packers’ new coach, and while it has already been announced that he’ll be bringing back defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and the rest of the defensive coaches, he still needs to round out his offensive staff. Jets WR’s coach Karl Dorrell will interview for the same position with Green Bay, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Dorrell got his start under Mike Shanahan, who LaFleur also used to coach under, so the connection is there.
  • The Rams are losing Zac Taylor to the Bengals, as their 35-year-old quarterbacks coach will take over the head coaching gig in Cincinnati, and they almost lost another assistant. Senior offensive assistant Jedd Fisch had an interview for the head coaching vacancy at Temple, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapoport also notes that Fisch, the former Jaguars and UCLA offensive coordinator, could be “an option to fill a key offensive position next year” with the departure of Taylor.
  • Byron Leftwich wasn’t able to do much after taking over as the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator this season, but Bruce Arians has a ton of confidence in his new offensive coordinator with the Buccaneers. Arians called Leftwich a “rising star” and said Arizona’s offensive struggles were because they weren’t running Leftwich’s offense, per Nick Shook of NFL.com. It’s been rumored that Arians views Leftwich as his eventual successor when he retires from coaching for good.

Bears Interview Ed Donatell For DC, Have Interest In Chuck Pagano

The Bears on Thursday interviewed defensive backs coach Ed Donatell for their vacant defensive coordinator position, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Chicago also has interest in former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.

After losing ex-DC Vic Fangio — who became the Broncos’ head coach — earlier this week, the Bears attempted to land former Jets head coach Todd Bowles as their new defensive play-caller, but he ultimately followed Bruce Arians to Tampa Bay. Fangio led a defensive unit which ranked first in nearly every defensive metric, and is so well-stocked with talent that, as Biggs notes, general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy shouldn’t have trouble generating interest in the open position.

Donatell has been a Fangio disciple since 2011, following the longtime DC to both San Francisco and Chicago as a defensive backs coach. He’s also served as a defensive coordinator for the Packers (2000-03), Falcons (2004-06), and Redskins (2008). Per Biggs, Donatell’s contract with the Bears has run out, and if he’s not promoted to DC in Chicago, he’s likely to leave to join Fangio in Denver. Donatell has already had two stints as the Broncos’ defensive backs coach.

Pagano, 58, didn’t coach last season after being fired by Indianapolis, but he’s generated plenty of interest during the 2019 hiring cycle. He interviewed for both the Packers and Broncos head coaching positions, and has since been mentioned as a DC candidate for the Jets, Browns, and Cardinals. Just today, Pagano interviewed for a defensive backs coach position with the Panthers.

Todd Bowles To Choose Between Bears, Bucs

Todd Bowles to the Buccaneers is not a done deal. The former Jets head coach was said to be on board as the Bucs’ new DC, but he is now deciding between that job and the same position with the Bears, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune hears.

Bowles and Matt Nagy have spoken multiple times, Biggs writes, and their longstanding relationship could lead him to Chicago. Then again, Bowles also has serious ties with new Bucs head coach Bruce Arians.

Nagy’s father coached Bowles in high school, but Arians coached Bowles when he played at Temple. Years later, Bowles served as Arians’ defensive coordinator in Arizona.

Friendships and history aside, the Bears might offer Bowles’ quickest ticket back into the head coaching ranks. With a defense led by superstar Khalil Mack and a 2018 record of 12-4, the Bears are in prime position to win and potentially vault their next DC up the NFL’s ladder.

If the Bears do not hire Bowles, in-house secondary coach Ed Donatell could be a consideration. Donatell is out of contract, however, and Biggs hears that he’ll likely leave if he does not get the promotion.

Coach Updates: Eagles, Raiders, Bucs, Fewell

We’ve already seen one club make a defensive coordinator hire today, as the 49ers promoted Eric Mangini from tight ends coach to DC. Let’s take a look at some position coach hires and news from around the league…

  • The Eagles are expected to add Boston College offensive coordinator Ryan Day as their quarterbacks coach, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN (Twitter link). Day, who’s been at BC for nine years, will replace Bill Musgrave, who left to take the Raiders’ OC position. Day has a history with Eagles HC Chip Kelly, as Day played under and coached with Kelly at New Hampshire.
  • The Raiders have also found a new QB coach, as they are set to hire Bills quarterbacks coach Todd Downing, per Caplan (on Twitter). Downing also interviewed for roles with the Browns and Buccaneers, according to Caplan.
  • Not to be outdone, the Buccaneers have become the third team to hire a new QBs coach, as they’ve brought in Mike Bajakian to fill their vacancy, reports Roy Cummings of the Tampa Bay Tribune (Twitter link). Bajakian, previously the offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee, worked under Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith with the Bears. The Bucs have also added ex-Falcons assistant Andrew Weidinger as an offensive quality control coach, writes Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times.
  • Ex-Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has an interview lined up with the 49ers, according to Dianna Marie Russini of NBC4 (via Twitter). San Francisco just hired Mangini, so Fewell is presumably a candidate for the Niners’ DB coach job, as Cam Inman of the Mercury News tweets.
  • Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com expects (Twitter link) that Falcons assistant offensive line coach Wade Harman will remain on staff as the tight ends coach; as McClure notes, Harman held that same role in Baltimore from 1998-2013.
  • Former 49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell has accepted the same position with the Bears, but as Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com writes, Donatell might have missed out on other opportunities in the past. In each of the last two offseasons, San Francisco blocked Donatell from accepting interview requests from the Buccaneers and the Saints, per Maiocco.