When Dante Scarnecchia announced his retirement from coaching earlier this week, the New England Patriots lost not just their offensive line coach but one of the most experienced members of their organization. A veteran of 34 NFL seasons, Scarnecchia has seen it all and over the years has grown into not just into one of the best and most successful position coaches in the league but arguably a Hall of Fame candidate.
Needless to say that whoever ends up filling the 71-year-old’s shoes — the prime candidates at the moment appear to be either coaching assistant Carmen Bricillo or assistant running backs coach Cole Popovich — will face a big challenge in keeping the Patriots’ offensive line productive. That being said, Scarnecchia did create a blueprint during his time in New England that his eventual successor and his players should try to continue to follow.
The now-retired veteran coach shared it at the Coaches of Offensive Linemen Clinic at Notre Dame in 2014, shortly after his first retirement from the NFL (one that lasted all but two seasons before his return in 2016). Back then, Scarnecchia talked to those in attendance about the playing code his units have to follow — certain coaching points that he “really believe[s] strongly in” according to the man himself.
Those points are as follows:
1.) Work together on every snap
2.) See the game through one set of eyes: “That means when the Will [linebacker] walks up into the A-gap, are we going to block him? Everybody’s going to see the game through one set of eyes and not five different sets of eyes, because if that happens it’s chaos.”
3.) Build trust: “You gotta trust the guys around you, and you gotta build their trust in you. When certain things happen, they know exactly what to expect out of you just like you know what to expect out of them.”
4.) Do what is expected of you on every play
5.) Be consistently good: “You can’t just be good, you gotta be consistently good.”
6.) Train yourself to play with good habits
7.) Give great effort on every play
8.) Play your best football when it matters most
“Those are things that we really talk about all the time, and they are the playing code for our offensive line and we believe really strongly in those things,” Scarnecchia said at the football clinic before continuing to talk about drills he ran in New England to hammer home those exact points. Quoting one of his former colleagues at Iowa State, Tom Harper, he said that “if you’re not seeing your drills on the game tapes, you’re doing the wrong drills.”
Whoever follows Scarnecchia in New England, whether it is Bricillo, Popovich or somebody else, should try to stick to those principles and coach based on the foundation the Patriots’ long-term assistant and five-time Super Bowl winner laid. Replacing him will still not be easy even with guidelines in place, but they should be a good starting point for whoever comes in to work with an offensive line that might look quite different in 2020.