The Patriots coaching staff is losing a legend as longtime assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia is retiring after 36 seasons in the NFL, 34 of them with the Patriots. That’s longer than most of the players and many of the fans of the team have even been alive.
Scarnecchia has always been regarded as one of the finest assistant coaches in the league and one who has been integral to the Patriots’ success, especially during the Belichick/Brady era of success.
Scarnecchia was first hired by the Patriots in 1982 and was on Ron Meyer’s staff. He joined Meyer in Indianapolis for two years in 1989-90 before returning to the Patriots in 1991. He retired for two years in 2014 -15 before returning in 2016. He’ll turn 72 years old in February. During his time in New England, he’s worked for head coaches Meyer, Raymond Berry, Dick MacPherson, Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll, and Belichick. In 49 of the Patriots 58 playoff games, he’s been on the sideline. He owns five Super Bowl rings.
“Dante Scarnecchia has been unbelievable in every way. As a coach, he was extraordinarily talented at teaching his players and bringing the most out of each of them,” said Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“Dante put everything he had into helping his players achieve their maximum potential — the mark of a great coach. His contributions to our team and to the game of football are unprecedented over the last four decades. Yet even more remarkable is the impact Dante has had on countless players, coaches and staff members who have walked through our doors. He modeled the principles he believed in through his hard work, diligence, and integrity. He held himself accountable. He trained alongside his players. He treated everyone with respect. There truly is no way to sum up the incredible career he’s had, the positive impact he’s made on our franchise or how much he will be missed. We are forever grateful for Dante and wish him the absolutely best in his next chapter, along with his lovely wife Susan and his family. The New England Patriots are better because of Dante Scarnecchia, and he will always have a home with us.”
“It was a privilege to coach with Dante for so long,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “I knew that long before his initial retirement and throughout the second act of continued excellence. Dante is among the very best assistant coaches ever.”
Patriots QB Tom Brady took to Instagram and had this to say about the retirement of Coach Scar: “Couldn’t have been a greater man or coach! What a privilege to play and work with Dante for two decades. The definition of the Patriot Way — consistent and dependable EVERY DAY!!”
Scarnecchia’s retirement adds another piece, a very big piece at that, to a Patriots coaching staff that has already lost. STs coordinator and WR coach Joe Judge, and DL coach Bret Bielema had both left for the Giants, Judge taking over as head coach and Bielema joining his staff with him.
Scarnecchia was always known as a coach who would get the absolute best out of his players. He was tough, very demanding and a no-nonsense guy, but a coach that would also always be accountable and have their backs. That’s why almost every player to a man that he coached will say that while he was tough to play for, he was loved by his players.
Tackles Nate Solder and Trent Brown earned huge contracts after playing under the tutelage of Coach Scar and a look at the current group of offensive linemen shows that despite not being drafted in Rounds 1-2, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon have all thrived working for him. Center David Andrews wasn’t drafted at all.
Scarnecchia would be very much involved with the scouts when working out offensive lineman prospects, and he could always spot the players with the talent that they could mold into Patriots offensive linemen. That aspect of their drafting process, along with his incredible eye for detail on the field will definitely be missed.
Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was taking an All-American wrestler Stephen Neal, who had never played a snap of college football and molding him into a very solid offensive lineman.
With young offensive linemen Isaiah Wynn, Yodny Cajuste, and Hjalte Froholdt in the mix, it will be interesting to see how their development takes shape without Scarnecchia on the sideline in 2020. Wynn was just finding his feet in 2019 after injuries derailed him of his first season and a half while Froholdt was injured early in his rookie season. Cajuste never took the field after he had offseason quad surgery.
So, who will replace Coach Scar on the staff in 2020? Most seem to think that the job will fall to OL assistant Carmen Bricillo or RB assistant coach Cole Popovich. Bricillo was brought on to the staff last season after nine years of coaching OL at Youngstown State, while Popovich assisted Scarnecchia for several years prior to that.
“You never know what to expect in this crazy business and it’s been an unbelievable four years,” Scarnecchia said to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Tuesday. “To coach 48 seasons of football, it’s been unbelievable and I never would’ve expected anything remotely close to this. I’ve been extremely blessed for 1000 different reasons. I’ll give you three: Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady. To have those stars all in alignment, it’s been unbelievable. To just be able to share in it has been great.”
Watching Scarnecchia work with the OL during minicamps and training camps was always a treat. And how many 71-year olds run sprints on the hill with their offensive linemen after practice? He’ll be truly missed, on and off the field.
As far as assistant positional coaches go, there was arguably none better. Canton should have a bust for him when his name becomes eligible. Of that, he is most deserving. Did we say yet that he’ll be missed? Happy trails coach.
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