Bill Belichick called him one of “the very best assistant coaches ever.”
Tom Brady said that it was “a privilege to play and work with Dante for two decades.”
Robert Kraft noted that “he was extraordinarily talented at teaching his players and bringing the most out of each of them.”
Over the years, Dante Scarnecchia has left quite an impression on the New England Patriots and on Tuesday he officially ended his storied career with the franchise: Scarnecchia announced his retirement from coaching, after spending a combined 34 seasons with the Patriots and helping them win five Super Bowls as their offensive line coach (a role he first took over in 1999). Leaving the team was no hard decision for him, however.
“I’m going to be 72 in two weeks and I think that’s about enough. I’m really, really happy with this,” Scarnecchia told the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian shortly after reports broke that he would step away from the game. “Nothing’s changed. I love the game but you can’t do it forever. It’s impossible, it’s a hard job, it’s as hard as it gets. And I don’t regret anything. I don’t regret the approach I took to it.”
“I’m completely, completely satisfied [...] and our immediate family, everybody’s pleased also. Look it, I’m really doing good. This is not a time of mourning at all,” added Scarnecchia who is now closing a book that saw its first chapter written in 1982. Back then, Patriots head coach Ron Meyer lured him away from his position at Southern Methodist to join the NFL as New England’s new tight ends and special teams coach.
Through the seasons that followed, Scarnecchia went on to fill numerous roles with the team. With the exception of a two-year stint with the Indianapolis Colts and a short-lived first retirement in 2014 and 2015, he coached not just the tight ends and special teams units but also worked with linebackers, as an assistant on offense and defense, as interim and assistant head coach, and finally as the man responsible for the Patriots’ offensive line.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience. The success the team has had, for a long time, not just the past four years [...] to be part of it, a small part of it has been wonderful,” Scarnecchia said about his three-decade-long tenure with the Patriots. “I’ve had a great time. Our family has really enjoyed it. We’ve been so fortunate to be in the postseason each year and have success. It’s been great. Fabulous.”
Of course, Scarnecchia’s career in New England did not end on a high note. While the team won the Super Bowl in two of his four seasons since he ended his first retirement, his final game ended in defeat when the Patriots were bounced from the playoffs on wild card weekend. The veteran assistant coach still felt positively about the group he worked with in 2019, however, even though it failed to recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
“We did everything we possibly could, the players did everything they possibly could,” he said. “We worked harder than we probably ever worked. We won twelve games, and we didn’t do very well in the last game. You’re always kind of judged by the last game, so that’s that. But I don’t have one thing to have any remorse about, or mixed feelings about. I’m so blessed to have coached for 48 years, and to be a small part of a great program here.”
Ever the humble man, Scarnecchia’s role within the Patriots organization cannot be underestimated even though he himself describes it only as small: his offensive lines were consistently among the best in the game, after all, and have helped New England play various styles of offense throughout the years — from the spread attack of the late 2000s to the ground-and-pound style that helped the team win the Super Bowl just last year.
Ultimately, this is what Scarnecchia’s career comes down to: him helping the team and adapting to whichever situation he found himself in. “We got everything we could out of this whole career,” he said, “and I’m grateful for everything.”