Scarnecchia’s Legacy in New England
Published: Friday, January 24, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 24, 2014 01:01
After working for thirty years in the New England Patriots organization, Dante Scarnecchia, the Patriots offensive line coach, retired Wednesday. In a league that sees tremendous turnover in defensive rosters, defensive styles and offensive schemes, Scarnecchia’s level of success keeping his quarterbacks protected is truly astonishing.
When Belichick assumed the head-coaching job of the Patriots in 2000, it was typical for a new coach to wipe the coaching staff clean and start anew. Belichick, however, saw Scarnecchia’s work ethic and track record and decided to stick with him. The decision turned out to be beneficial.
In a statement Wednesday, the usually tight-lipped Belichick opened up about his long-time offensive line coach. "Dante Scarnecchia is a Patriot and NFL legend who defied the phrase 'not for long.’ In an industry of constant change, Dante remained a fixture here for the simple reason that he helped every player reach his highest potential, regardless of whom he was, how he was acquired or how much raw talent he had. In whatever category a coach can be assessed — evaluator, teacher, motivator, problem solver, disciplinarian, team player, winner — Dante is as good as it gets. As many games as he helped us win and as much as we would like to work with Dante forever, we are blessed with the opportunity to have been with him as long as we were."
But Belichick’s words are not just hot air — think about the way the Patriots offense has transformed in recent years. From the run-heavy years between 2000 and 2006, to the record setting Brady-to-Moss season in 2007, to the Brady-less Matt Cassel 2008 campaign, to the two tight Gronkowski-Hernandez season and back to the run-heavy offense at the end of this year, the New England offense has come full-circle with one constant: outstanding offensive line performance.
What is most impressive about the offensive line is that Scarnecchia was not always given the best talent, and even with that, “Scar,” as the Patriots call him, was the x-factor in the line’s success. Players like Sebastian Vollmer and Stephen Neal were not close to NFL-caliber linemen when they entered the league.
Vollmer was a German immigrant who, during his freshman year at Houston, did not speak English. He was projected as a late-round pick, but the Patriots took him in the second round, in large part because of Scarnecchia’s propensity to turn raw talent into high-performing players. Vollmer was second-team All-Pro in 2010.
Stephen Neal wrestled in college and did not play football. He was signed as an undrafted free-agent by the Patriots, and, thanks to Coach Scarnecchia, was a part of the teams that won three Super Bowls.
The offensive line provided results. Thinking back, it is hard to remember Brady taking a really big hit. Even during the 18-1 year, when most people remember a line in the Super Bowl that looked confused at best when handling Jason Pierre-Paul, Michael Strahan and the rest of the Giants’ defense, the unit provided some of the best protection in NFL history.
Plays in which Brady had time to look off four receivers before finding a tight end were commonplace. In 2007, Brady had all day to throw the ball downfield to Randy Moss. Moss finished the season with 25 touchdown receptions.
Coaching a line through a series of offensive-scheme changes is a remarkable coaching feat, but Scarnecchia was an even better man in his personal life than he was a coach. New Englanders will miss his presence in the community, but should be thankful for the opportunity to have had an individual of such strong character associated with their franchise.
Replacing Scarnecchia will be Dave DeGuglielmo, a coaching journeyman with an equally confusing last name. Belichick knew that Scarnecchia would retire at the end of this season — he was supposed to retire a few years ago, but was convinced to stay on to aid the transition process. Patriots fans will be sad, but at the same time should be optimistic that DeGuglielmo will continue Scarnecchia’s success as the 36-year-old Brady moves into the later years of his career. Congratulations and good luck on your retirement, Scar.
Matt Castaldo is a junior in the College. FULL CONTACT appears every Tuesday.