In 24 years coaching in the NFL, Ed Donatell has been part of changing his teams’ cultures. Now he’s tasked to do it again.
Ask him how, and he’ll point to Bears head coach John Fox — “Just go to him; he’s built it at a couple places,” he said — and his experienced co-workers.
Press him for specifics, and he admits that culture change is a very palpable — but indescribable — part of his coaching job.
“If we could write it down, we wouldn’t be here,” he said Sunday after the Bears’ final rookie minicamp practice at Halas Hall. “I wouldn’t be standing here. We’d be on our island somewhere.”
Yet that’s what the Bears’ new defensive backs coach and his fellow assistants are tasked to do in their first season at Halas Hall. In their first interviews Sunday since being hired, the Bears’ position coaches detailed their plans — in attitude more than on-the-field specifics.
“It really starts with coach Fox,” Donatell said. “He’s building a culture here. We’re just following him. Then it goes down to the coordinators and so forth.
“It doesn’t get built right away. It’s too hard to win in this league. These things take time.
“But we want it to happen fast.”
It will happen faster because the coaches know each other well. Donatell spent the last four seasons with the 49ers working under new Bears coordinator Vic Fangio.
From Denver, Fox brought offensive coordinator Adam Gase, offensive line coach Dave Magazu, defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and assistant defensive backs coach Sam Garnes. Special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers and assistant special teams coach Darius Swinton held the same jobs with the Broncos, too.
“Any time you’re mixing ideas, it makes you stronger,” Donatell said. “(Fox) is very willing to accept, just like Vic. So we put our thoughts together.”
Magazu has spent the past four seasons with Gase, and Fox is the only NFL head coach for which he’s worked. There’s a shared sense of history there, and shorthand during conversations remembering successes — and mistakes — from the past.
“We have the same scars,” Magazu said. “Sometimes that makes things a lot easier.”
Inside linebackers coach Glenn Pires, who came from the Falcons? He and Magazu were roommates at Springfield (Mass.) College in the late 1970s.
“Let’s start with, they’re good people,” Magazu said. “They all have pelts on the wall. San Francisco won a few games, now. It’s fun.”
Magazu sees changing the culture as creating a workplace his linemen enjoy.And winning, of course, makes everyone happy.
“I don’t think there’s a person on the face of the earth that hasn’t had a job where you woke up in the morning and went, ‘Ah, damn, I don’t wanna go in there,’” he said.
“If you can create an environment where you go in, you work hard, you get your work done, you enjoy the people that you’re working with and you can actually have fun doing it? That’s the environment that you try to create.”