Now that Vic Fangio accepted an offer to lead the Broncos, his first order of business calls for the 60-year-old to assemble his coaching staff.
He filled the offensive coordinator position with Gary Kubiak and reportedly will retain Tom McMahon to run the special teams unit. That leaves defensive coordinator as an immediate question mark, and though Fangio — a longtime play-caller — is expected to run that side of the ball, he still needs to install a de facto assistant, if only for title.
As most new head men do, Fangio may pluck a few of “his guys” from the Chicago Bears, his now-ex employer. And the “early rumor,” according to Mile High Sports’ Ben Allbright, links Denver’s DC opening to Bears secondary coach Ed Donatell, whose contract has expired.
Donatell and Fangio go hand-in-hand — and way back. The former worked under the latter during stints with the Bears and 49ers, and was the Broncos’ defensive backs coach on two separate occasions (1995-99, 2010). Donatell, 61, who’s been coaching in the NFL since 1990, has also worked as a defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, as well as serving a special assistant for the New York Jets and DC of the Washington Huskies.
Hired by the Bears in 2015, Donatell’s unit finished seventh overall against the pass this season and recorded an NFL-high 27 interceptions and five pick-sixes. Cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson were voted to the Pro Bowl and earned first-team All-Pro honors under Donatell’s tutelage.
“I’m grateful that I ended up here,” Jackson said in November, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’ve got great coaches, great teammates — they really play a big part in that. It’s a blessing when you have a guy you can relate to like coach Vic or coach Ed. Even coach [Nick] Saban, I can relate to him a lot in college. I’m just forever grateful, and I just want to keep learning from everything I can learn from.”
Donatell was viewed by many as a Bears in-house replacement for Fangio, who spearheaded the league’s top defense. Jumping ship to Denver would officially spell the end of holdover DC and former secondary coach Joe Woods, who’s expected to be fired. The Broncos’ defense ranked 22nd in yards, 21st against the run and 20th against the pass in 2018, hampered by personnel issues and Woods’ insistence on zone coverage rather than man-press looks.
The Broncos reportedly will retain wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, running backs coach Curtis Modkins, offensive line coaches Chris Strausser and Sean Kugler, and assistant quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak. On defense, renowned line coach Bill Kollar — the best in the business — will return, and linebackers coach Reggie Herring should, too.
General manager John Elway has maintained that he’s allowing the new coach to keep or dismiss members of the Vance Joseph regime.
“They’re still all under contract,” Elway said on Dec. 31. “I told them [that]. I talked to each one of them today and so we’ll just see how things go. We’ve got a lot of good football coaches on this staff so obviously we want to give the next head coach an opportunity to retain those coaches, especially if they know some of the coaches on the staff. I feel good about that and the coaches that we have, so we’ll see how that goes.”