Retiring Dante Scarnecchia a Patriots' G.O.A.T. in his own right

Andy Hart
January 29, 2020 - 7:34 am
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The Patriots lost a G.O.A.T. this week.

Listen to your team news NOW.

No, Tom Brady didn’t somehow jump ship from Foxborough before he could even hit free agency in March.

Nor did Bill Belichick drop some stunning retirement announcement.

Rather, word broke that legendary New England offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia is retiring for the second time, this time likely for good, at the age of 71.

Make no mistake, while Scarnecchia may not have the historical notoriety or household-name status of Belichick or Brady, he’s arguably just as good at doing his job – geez, where have I heard that phrase prioritized before? – and his loss is a massive blow to the Patriots in the midst of maybe the most important offseason in franchise history.

Scarnecchia is a veteran of 48 coaching seasons, including 36 in the NFL and 34 with the Patriots. Having done a variety of jobs under prior bosses in New England, he’s spent the entirety of Belichick’s dynastic tenure with the Patriots overseeing the offensive line, save for that two-year prior retirement from 2012-15.

“It was a privilege to coach with Dante for so long,” Belichick said in a statement. “I knew that long before his initial retirement and throughout a second act of continued excellence. Dante is among the very best assistant coaches ever.”

To say, as the cliché goes, that Scarnecchia could take chicken $#it offensive line talent and turn it into chicken salad is disrespectful to both the chicken $#it and the resulting chicken salad.

It’s also true. (Take your snarky Marshall Newhouse comment and stick. This is neither the time nor the place for that!)

In many ways, the man lovingly called Scar by all, was a magician.

He could magically take practice squanders, cast-offs or even a collegiate wrestler and turn them into a cohesive group of five functioning men working toward one goal at a high enough level for the rest of the team to find the Brady-led success that drove the team to unprecedented winning.

Guys like Tom Ashworth, Russ Hochstein, Billy Yates and endless others owe large portions of their careers and their post-Patriots paychecks to Scarnecchia.

He was also a magician in that his hard-coaching ways – there was a reason the area of the training camp practice field known as Dante’s Inferno was as far as possible from the eyes and ears of the fans and media – somehow resulted in an impenetrable loyal bond with his players.

Only Scar could refer to his erring troops as “F#*%ing morons” in the heat of practice action and have it lead to guys willing to run through the ol’ brick wall for him, which is really what he was asking them to do on every snap.

Like Belichick, Scarnecchia was not an easy guy to play for. Like Belichick, he would find a way to put guys in position to succeed, covering up their weaknesses and maximizing their strengths. Like Belichick he could be critical beyond belief.

But while not all players took Belichick’s ways in loyal stride, Scarnecchia’s tactics did nothing but breed fondness, loyalty and respect.

Just saw the report that #Patriots OL coach Dante Scarnecchia is retiring. First let me say that it was a privilege to play and be coached by this man. From my predraft visit, where we sat through and watched the worst game of my college career (Syracuse), to my last game in a Pats uniform, this man taught me more about the game than I could ever imagine. Never relenting on the details, I always used to wonder why he was so damn hard on me my first couple yrs in the league and looking back on it...he did me a HUGE favor! That foundation is what carried me for 12 yrs in the #NFL and beyond. I want to thank coach from the bottom of my heart for helping turn a young pup from BC into a pro on and off the field...LUV!#patriotsnation

A post shared by Damien Woody (@damienwoody) on

Social media challenges are all the rage these days, like that impossible idea of getting up from lying face down on the floor without blowing out a hip or some other critical body part.

Here’s an even more challenging endeavor: find someone with something negative to say about Scarnecchia and then post it to your choice of social media platforms.

It won’t happen. Not within the Patriots team. Not with former players. Not inside Gillette Stadium. Not around town.

Nope, Scarnecchia is the rare being that can push people harder than they want to be, beyond their own predetermined internal limits and come out the other side with not a hint of resentment, animosity or backlash.

Magic. Legend.

And the diminutive health nut – Scarnecchia used to run endlessly, including with his players at training camp before turning to a more joint-friendly swimming regimen – wasn’t opposed to turning his motivational ways in directions beyond just the players that outweighed him by a couple hundred pounds.

“When did you stop working out?” Scarnecchia once asked a workout-conscious reporter slyly, knowing full well the motivational mind game that he was playing.

“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,” Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said. “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.”

Scarnecchia is the rare assistant coach who is not only worthy of enshrinement in the Patriots Hall of Fame, but it would not be crazy to consider him for a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame thanks to his four-decades of unique contributions to his players, his bosses and his teams.

Scar is a one-of-a-kind coach and man.

He will be greatly missed.

Probably far more than most even realize.

Related: Charlie Weis on OMF: Why is Tom Brady a free agent?