ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos named Ed Donatell as their defensive coordinator, Head Coach Vic Fangio announced Tuesday.
Donatell, who has 28 years of NFL experience, worked with Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio in Chicago during the last four seasons. Donatell served as the Bears’ secondary coach while Fangio worked as Chicago’s defensive coordinator. He also worked with Fangio in San Francisco from 2011-14.
“Ed’s been an integral part of top-10 defenses for six of the last eight seasons in two different places, and he’s a great fit to be our defensive coordinator," Fangio said. "Having worked very closely with him for a number of years, Ed has a strong understanding of the entire defense from the front end to the back end with the defensive backs being his specialty. He’s a very good teacher and believes in the fundamentals in the classroom and on the field. We’re thrilled to add Ed to our coaching staff and welcome him back to the Broncos.”
In Chicago, Donatell coached a pair of first-team All-Pro selections in cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson. The Bears defense ranked near the top of the league in scoring defense (first), total defense (third), pass defense (seventh), yards per play (first), opponent quarterback rating (first), interceptions (first) and third-down defense (fourth).
Donatell enjoyed similar success in San Francisco, as the 49ers ranked sixth against the pass and tied for second in the NFL in interceptions during his four-year tenure. Five different defensive backs made the Pro Bowl during his time with the 49ers.
Donatell now returns to coach the Broncos for the third time in his career. He previously coached Denver’s secondary from 1995-99 — during which time the Broncos won two Super Bowls — and again from 2009-10.
In his first stint with the team, Donatell helped the Broncos rank seventh in the league in passing yards allowed per game and passing yards per attempt. Steve Atwater made the Pro Bowl three times under Donatell’s guidance, while Tyrone Braxton also earned a Pro Bowl selection. The Broncos ranked in the top 10 in the NFL against the pass in four of his five initial seasons in Denver.
When Donatell returned in 2009, he helped Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins reach the Pro Bowl as Denver’s defense ranked third against the pass.
As defensive coordinator, Donatell will help manage the defensive staff, but Fangio said in his introductory press conference that he would call the defensive plays.
"They hired me because of my work on the defensive side of the ball,” Fangio said. “I’m going to give them my work on the defensive side of the ball. I believe, for the most part, I’m pretty good at it. So, I’m going to do it. There’s several offensive head coaches that still call plays. Not all of them, but I will have a staff that I will work close with. They’ll understand everything we want to do and are doing. I think it’s important that I do it. I want to do it, and look forward to it.”
Though Donatell has held three defensive coordinator roles during his career (Green Bay Packers, 2000-03; Atlanta Falcons, 2004-06; University of Washington, 2008), most of his experience has come coaching defensive backs.
After beginning his career as a graduate assistant at Kent State and the University of Washington, Donatell coached the defensive backs at Pacific, Idaho and Cal State Fullerton before earning his first NFL job in 1990.
Donatell has spent 27 of the last 28 years in the NFL coaching for six different teams.