Dante Scarnecchia: The Patriots' Secret Weapon

Danny CarewCorrespondent IMay 29, 2009

FOXBOROUGH, MA - OCTOBER 24:  Offensive Line and Assistant Head Coach Dante Scarnecchia of the New England Patriots looks on from the sideline during the game against the New York Jets on October 24, 2004 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Jets 13-7. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Dante Scarnecchia, New England Patriots’ assistant head coach and offensive line coach, has been the secret to the team’s success for 27 seasons.

A secret, because when most think of the Patriots' successes throughout their reign of Super Bowls, Bill Belichick and high profile coordinators—Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels—get the most credit.

And when it comes to the team, Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker often rake in the glory when really, the offensive line is the beating heart of the team. Their most important job is to serve and protect Tom Brady.

Brady may be behind the offensive line, but Scarnecchia is the brains behind New England’s front five.

Scarnecchia joined the Patriots in 1982. Serving under Head Coach Ron Meyer, he coached tight ends and special teams. After seven seasons in Foxboro, Scarnecchia took a leave of absence from the Patriots to follow Meyer to the Indianapolis Colts in 1989.

Scarnecchia coached the offensive line for the Colts before returning to the Patriots in 1991, where he reprised his previous role as coach of tight ends and special teams.

During the 1992 season, when Dick MacPherson became sick, Scarnecchia filled in as the team’s interim coach, accounting for the team’s only two victories that season.

After the horrific 1992 season, it was a surprise that Scarnecchia was the only assistant retained to join Bill Parcells’ Patriots staff in 1993.

For the past 10 seasons, Scarnecchia has sanctioned an offensive line that is annually among the best in the NFL.

Here are some reasons Scarnecchia deserves a pat on the back:

  • Has been an offensive line coach for 23 of 39 seasons as a coach.
  • In 2007, was named NFL Assistant Coach of the Year, for an offense that featured three Pro Bowlers: C Dan Koppen, T Matt Light and G Logan Mankins. In the same year, the Patriots allowed only 21 sacks, the best record in franchise history since the 16-game schedule came into play.
  • In 2004, Corey Dillon broke the franchise’s single season rushing record with 1,635 yards, thanks in part to the offensive line.
  • In 2003, the Pats won the Super Bowl despite three of their five opening-day starters being on injured reserve. Russ Hochstein was inserted for an injured Damien Woody, to which former Buccaneer Warren Sapp commented, “I've seen Russ Hochstein block, and he can't, so this is a mismatch, plain and simple...Damien Woody was the best lineman they had.” The Patriots didn’t allow a single sack during the game.
  • Is credited as transforming Stephen Neal into a NFL starter. Neal was a wrestler at Cal State-Bakersfield but did not play college football.
  • Was able to successfully insert rookie center Dan Koppen in place of an injured Damien Woody in 2004. Koppen has been a Pro-Bowl center, and is considered to be among the best at the position. Interesting note: All of New England’s starters on offense, with the exception of Stephen Neal, have been starters since their rookie season—Matt Light (2001), Dan Koppen (2004), Logan Mankins (2005), Nick Kazur (2005).
  • Has coached NFL greats John Hannah, Brian Holloway and Bruce Armstrong.
  • Has coached been a coach of the Patriots in each of their six Super Bowl appearances.

His modesty may be what keeps him behind the scenes.

“We’re not terribly big and we’re not terribly talented,” said Scarnecchia in a Jan. 2008 interview before the Super Bowl, “but we’re very good at seeing the game through the same eyes.”