NEW ORLEANS––Life has been good to Ed Donatell these days.
Remembered in Green Bay as the scapegoat for “Fourth-and-26,” the current San Francisco 49ers secondary coach is climbing his way back through the ranks and will be looking to help the Niners to a Super Bowl victory on Sunday.
By reading between the lines, one can see that Donatell is once again a coach in demand. With open defensive coordinator positions still vacant in Philadelphia, New Orleans and St. Louis, it’s clear those organizations are waiting until the Super Bowl is over to fill those posts.
Rather than pat himself on the back, Donatell gives credit to those around him for even being mentioned as a candidate for these open job listings.
“It says a lot about our team,” said Donatell this week. “When the tide rises, it lifts all ships. We have a good team, we have good players, good coaches. When you have good teamwork, that’s really how people advance and grow in the business. It’s the right way to do things. That’s more of a compliment to our team.”
The 49ers saw a lot of success on the defensive side of the football in 2012, ranking third in the league in total defense during the regular season, and the unit Donatell coaches played a big role.
Primarily in charge of the safeties, Donatell had a good pair, among the best duos in the NFL. Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson were both voted to the Pro Bowl in 2012, and they point to the lessons learned from Donatell for their accomplishments.
“He broke the game down for us,” said Whitner. “From formations to terminology. We erased all the terminology we knew in the past. He went to an elementary level with us on why quarterbacks like to go where they like to go, how they’re being coached, who they were coached by.”
Like the rest of the 49ers defense, their secondary has a reputation as being physical, part of the reason they ranked fourth in the NFL against the run, giving up an average of less than 95 yards per game.
“I just think we have some players that take a lot of pride in tackling,” said Donatell. “With the new rules that have been instituted, I really think they’ve tried to improve upon it and follow the rules and learn about the strike zone and try to perfect it.
“So with Dashon and Donte, we feel really good about how they want to be physical but clean and be that kind of example for the kids playing this game.”
The development Whitner and Goldson just continue the reputation Donatell has of coaching elite safeties in the NFL including the likes Ronnie Lott and Steve Atwater at other stops in his coaching tenure, as well as LeRoy Butler and Darren Sharper during his time with the Packers.
Despite the infamous loss to the Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs back in 2004, it’s not as if Donatell has been blackballed in Green Bay.
Since it was announced just over a week ago that Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila would be inducted to the Packers Hall of Fame class of 2013, the former Packers defensive end sent out an invitation to his Donatell inviting him to the ceremony.
Donatell called “KGB” a “great player” and said he enjoyed watching him grow into a respected defender in league circles.
“If we can slip in a quick trip, it would be great to see the people up there,” said Donatell. “It’s just great people, great fans. I went to that banquet every year I was there, and I thought it was special and unique to that franchise, and it is a storybook franchise, there’s no question.”
But first things first. Before he pays a visit to Titletown or even interviews for any potential defensive coordinator openings, there’s still the task of beating the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
When that’s over, Donatell can worry about the future and continue his resurrection since being on Mike Sherman’s staff almost a decade ago.
Brian Carriveau is the author of “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and an editor at Cheesehead TV. To contact Brian, email email@example.com.