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Patriots Unsung Heroes: Dante Scarnecchia

As someone with a large amount of drive, ambition, and lofty life goals, I spend a lot of my free time watching action movies. My theory is that if I can watch every action movie ever made, then I'll finally be really, really motivated to get out there and do something great - and I'll know all the tricks of how you get there. I already have my training montage music ready to go. I have my eye on a broken down basement level space that will serve nicely as my humble beginnings, and I have a large number of big, strong bullies that harass me on a regular basis who are just asking for it - when I'm good and ready. The only thing I don't have, unfortunately, is my old man. If movies have taught us anything, it's that the best way to achieve greatness is to find a crotchety old man with white hair to kick you repeatedly in the pants and push you to reach levels of greatness you never thought possible. Daniel Larusso had Mr. Miyagi. Rocky had Mickey. Luke had Yoda. The Highlander had Sean Connery, despite the ridiculous getup. The list goes on and on.

Enter the New England Patriots - or more specifically, the Patriots' offensive line. The Pats have been very solid up front for years now, and only part of it is due to the talent of the players on the field. The Patriots are lucky enough to have Mickey, Mr. Miyagi, and Yoda all rolled into one in Dante Scarnecchia. Few outside of the National Football League and Patriots Nation have ever even heard of him, but there is simply nobody better at his position. In my unapologetically biased opinion, Scarnecchia is the greatest offensive line coach of all time.

Not only is Scarnecchia the longest tenured Patriots coach at 26 years with the club, but he is widely recognized for his abilities to take individual players and mold them into a cohesive unit. This year, more than any other, Scarnecchia's wisdom as a coach have been on full display, as at times the Patriots were down to their third string center and had a rookie tight end-turned tackle protecting Brady's blind side. They also brought in an aging veteran guard who had spent the bulk of his career in Kansas City and was somewheat unfamiliar with New England's offense. Not only did the offensive line not miss a beat, but Nate Solder is on his way to being a staple of this offense for years to come and Brian Waters has become the anchor of that unit, now regarded as the Patriots' best offseason acquisition (more on Waters later on this week).

New England's key to victory on Sunday is fairly simple: neutralize the Giants' pass rush and give Tommy B enough time to shred a weak secondary. The play of this offensive line is going to make or break New England's championship hopes, and I for one know that Scarnecchia will have them as ready as they can possibly be for whatever New York is planning to throw at them.This line has been lights-out all postseason, and I thank coach for that. This unit has been constantly shifting and evolving, swapping out personnel and moving players to wherever they are needed. On Sunday, they will face their biggest test of the year.

The only time you ever hear an O-Lineman's name is when he has just given up a sack or been called for holding; it's a thankless job and those guys are the literal definition of unsung hero. Even more unsung, though, is the man who gets them ready for the onslaught of defenders every week. Dante won't be getting any credit for the way his unit performs in the Super Bowl (unless, of course, they play lousy. Then I',m sure he'll get some credit), but you can't understate the value he brings to this team and the amount of knowledge, experience, and toughness he instills on what has been the Patriots most consistently strong units all season.

Keep doing what you're doing, coach Scarnecchia. You deserve another ring as much as anybody on that team.

And when you finally decide to retire - if you are looking for an overweight, out of shape, lazy slob to mold into a hardened warrior, I'm your man.