Donatell, Jagodzinski get axed

Scapegoat or not, Ed Donatell took the fall for Green Bay's collapse against the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend when head coach and general manager Mike Sherman fired him today. Sherman also released tight ends coach Jeff Jagodzinski.<p>

Donatell, 46, had been the Packers' defensive coordinator since 2000, when Sherman was hired as head coach. Over the second half of the regular season, the Packers allowed just 114 points en route to an NFC North Division title.

But the Packers blew a 14-point lead to the Eagles in a divisional playoff game last Sunday and were unable to stop Philadelphia late in the game on fourth-and-26. Sherman said one play did not determine Donatell's fate.

"This is not a result of one play or one game," Sherman said. "It's a season-long evaluation. But then you come into the post-season and the after-season. You continue that, then make your decisions based on the information you've accrued throughout the season."

Jagodzinski, 40, coached in the college ranks for 14 years before being named to Ray Rhodes' Packer staff in 1999. He was retained as tight ends coach when Sherman succeeded Rhodes. But Sherman said he and Jagodzinski had "philosophical differences at times and didn't feel like we could overcome those," so he released Jagodzinski from his contract.

"Ultimately I had to do what I feel is best for the Packers," Sherman said. "It is very, very difficult for me. ... This has been tough for me. I care about both people very much."

Jagodzinski, a West Allis, Wis., native and a former University of Wisconsin-Whitewater fullback, was named to the Packers' staff after serving as offensive coordinator at Boston College in 1997-98. He was rumored last week as a candidate to become offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, but that opening was filled by Terry Robiskie, the Browns' receivers coach.

The two firings leave four vacancies on Sherman's staff. Besides seeking a new defensive coordinator and tight ends coach, Sherman also will be seeking a running backs coach and quality control coach on offense. Former running backs coach Sylvester Croom became head coach at Mississippi State in December. Stan Drayton, the Packers' former quality-control coach on offense, has accepted a job as running backs coach under the direction of Croom at Mississippi State.

The ever-positive Donatell expressed his gratitude for the opportunity he had the past four seasons in Green Bay.

"Looking ahead, son of a gun, I just ignited something inside of me," Donatell said. "I love coaching football. I love coaching aggressive. Around the corner, I think there's going to be an opportunity to coach some more guys. I'm ready for the task."

The Packers was ranked 17th in the league in total yards allowed this season (10th against the rush and 23rd against the pass). Last year and in 2001, Green Bay was ranked 12th overall in defense. In 2000, the Packers ranked 15th overall under Donatell, a Glenville, (W.Va.) State alumnus, coached defensive backs for the New York Jets (1990-94) and the Denver Broncos (1995-99) before joining the Sherman staff in 2000.

"I didn't see it coming. I have an excellent relationship with Mike. Anytime in this profession when you're in one of the top three spots, there's a possibility (of getting fired). I think that re-bond and move on. This is what I do as a coach. I'll adjust to this and good things will happen."

Packer Report Top Stories