The New England Patriots’ offseason is only three weeks old but it already brought some major change to the team’s coaching staff. The Patriots lost special teams/wide receivers coach Joe Judge and defensive line coach Bret Bielema to the New York Giants, and reportedly also hired Vinnie Sunseri and Jedd Fisch in yet to be announced roles. Now, another assistant will leave New England: offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
The 71-year-old confirmed reports about his retirement from coaching on Tuesday, which ini turn means that New England will have a massive hole to fill on its staff. How will the Patriots try to do that? That remains to be seen, but let’s take a quick look at five potential options.
The Patriots added Carmen Bricillo last offseason as a coaching assistant — one that worked closely alongside Scarnecchia in 2019 and should therefore be seen as the favorite to fill his now-vacant role. The 43-year-old certainly brings the necessary experience to the table, even though most of it comes from the collegiate ranks: before coming to New England, Bricillo spent nine years coaching the offensive line at Youngstown State where he coached his players to 15 All-Missouri Valley Conference selections.
Entering his sixth season with the Patriots, Cole Popovich could also be a candidate to take over for Scarnecchia. After originally joining New England as a coaching assistant in 2015 — a role he held for four years and one that saw him work with the offensive line quite a bit — he was promoted to assistant running backs coach under Ivan Fears last offseason. While Popovich might be groomed to take over for the 65-year-old Fears one day, it is also possible that the team moves him over to work with the offensive line.
The Patriots hired Mick Lombardi as their assistant quarterbacks coach last offseason, and he spent considerable time during the year with young passers Jarrett Stidham and Cody Kessler. The expectation is that he will keep that role moving forward for consistency’s sake, but New England might also throw a curveball and give the 31-year-old a different role next season. It seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened in Foxborough.
Last week, reports broke that the Patriots hired the aforementioned Jedd Fisch in an assistant role. How exactly it will look like has yet to be seen, but given his background it seems like a safe bet he will work on the offensive side of the ball. Does this make him a candidate to fill Scarnecchia’s former spot? Not necessarily, especially since Fisch has no previous experience in this area, but his body of work over his 23 years in coaching is certainly impressive and would qualify him to work with the O-line in some capacity in 2020.
Ryan Wendell spent the first eight seasons of his NFL career with the Patriots and started at right guard for them during their victory in Super Bowl 49. He left New England in 2015 and retired from pro football one year later, but returned in 2019 when he joined the Buffalo Bills as a coaching assistant. The 33-year-old played under Scarnecchia and is not stranger to the so-called Patriot Way. As far as outside options go, Wendell might therefore be among the most intriguing ones.
Of course, the Patriots could opt to go other routes as well. While the team’s former O-line coach, Dave DeGuglielmo, will likely not return despite currently being in between jobs, multiple other options seem to be on the table as the list above shows. As things currently stand, however, Bricillo and Popovich seem to be the frontrunners to inherit the position from the legendary Scarnecchia.