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Donatell dismissed after fourth-and-26 play

1/16/2004 - Green Bay Packers

Burned on a fourth-and-26 play late in their divisional-round loss at Philadelphia Sunday, the Packers defense has been under heat from Green Bay fans all week, and now the fire has led to a firing.

Packers head coach Mike Sherman announced in a Friday new conference that defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has been dismissed. Tight ends coach Jeff Jagodzinski has also been dismissed.

"It's a very difficult decision, but it's one that I felt I had
to make at this time," coach and general manager Mike Sherman
said. "I do feel I have to make decisions that are I feel in the
best interests of the football team at this time."

Donatell, 46, was the Packers coordinator the past four seasons. His defenses statistically ranked 15th (2000), 12th (2001) and 12th (2002) his first three years with the club but fell to No. 17 in 2003.

The decline in overall standing, and perhaps the lack of a pass rush from the front four that forced the team to blitz more, probably contributed to Donatell's dismissal. But the play that ultimately will be perceived as having led to his demise will be the fourth-and-26 conversion by the Eagles with just over a minute remaining in Sunday's defeat.

"I didn't see it coming," Donatell said. "As far as coaching,
I had a great time, a blast."

The Eagles converted the down on a 28-yard pass from Donovan McNabb to Freddie Mitchell, then went on to tie the score at 17-17, and won 20-17 in overtime on David Akers' field goal.

Donatell said "as a football coach, I should win that situation
every, single time. I learned something from it."

He added: "I will adjust to this and maybe good things will
happen. I think there is going to be an opportunity to coach some
more guys. I am up for the next shot."

It is not known if Sherman will promote from within to fill the vacancy or go outside the organization for a successor. There is currently a glut of experienced out-of-work coordinators.

Donatell worked for the New York Jets (1990-94) and Denver Broncos (1995-99) before joining Green Bay.

The job with the Packers was the first professional post for Jagodzinski, who came to the team in 1999.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.