It will be hard not to notice the absence of Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
It never truly felt like training camp had begun in New England until Scarnecchia was spotted running laps with the Patriots' offensive linemen. Most 65-year-old men are frail and lethargic, but Scarnecchia's energy and enthusiasm for coaching never wavered.
The Patriots announced on Wednesday that Scarnecchia, who was also the team's assistant head coach, will retire, and while he seems to be at peace with his decision, Scarnecchia's passion for the game shone through even in explaining his retirement.
"I think anytime you are able to have a vision of what you want out of this life, to have it come to fruition like it has for me ... after all these years, I never once thought of doing anything else," he said, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston.
"I've gotten honestly everything out of this I ever hoped and for that, I am eternally grateful and pleased. I would use the word satisfied. Whether anyone thinks it's good enough or not, I'm very, very satisfied with the way it all came out. I'm also satisfied this is the end. I'm not looking back on it and wishing I had it to do over again. I feel good about it."
Here's a text from ex-Patriot C Dan Koppen on Dante Scarnecchia: "I could never put into words the influence ... http://t.co/qmMY8KMUbp— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 23, 2014
He had a very fulfilling career, and was part of the Patriots in some capacity each of their seven trips to the Super Bowl. He spent 32 years in the NFL, making him the league's longest-tenured coach. He spent all but two of those years coaching with the Patriots, from 1982-88 and again from 1991-2013.
His versatility was underrated; Scarnecchia was an offensive line coach at several colleges in the '70s and early '80s, and came to the Patriots as a special teams coach in his first tenure in New England.
He departed to join the Indianapolis Colts as an offensive line coach from 1989-90, and wore both hats as a special teams coach and an offensive line coach when he came back to New England in '91. He bounced around under Bill Parcells, and even served a two-year stint as a defensive assistant. He only became the Patriots' full-time offensive line coach in 1999.
He had earned experience in all three phases before Bill Belichick arrived.
In his time with the Patriots, Scarnecchia was the embodiment of turning lemons into lemonade; hand him a big body and he'd turn him into a starting NFL linemen. Hand him a prospect with some promise and he'd turn him into a Pro Bowler.
There are a handful of random O-linemen who came thru Foxboro over the years who owe a large part of their salary to Scarnecchia.— Christopher Price (@cpriceNFL) January 22, 2014
There's probably more than a handful. Over the 15 years Scarnecchia served as the full-time offensive line coach, the Patriots seemed to find obscure offensive line talent once every few years.
|Player||Position||Drafted||Years in NE||Starts (NE)|
|Damien Woody||C||Round 1, 1999||1999-2003||78|
|Joe Andruzzi||LG||Undrafted, 1998||2000-04||72|
|Sale Isaia||RG||Undrafted, 1996||2000||14|
|Grant Williams||RT||Undrafted, 1996||2000-01||12|
|Greg Randall||RT||Round 4, 2000||2000-02||23|
|Matt Light||LT||Round 2, 2001||2001-11||153|
|Mike Compton||LG||Round 3, 1993||2001-03||34|
|Kenyatta Jones||RT||Round 4, 2001||2001-02||11|
|Tom Ashworth||RT||Undrafted, 2002||2002-05||30|
|Steve Neal||RG||Undrafted, 2002||2002-10||81|
|Dan Koppen||C||Round 5, 2003||2003-11||121|
|Brandon Gorin||RT||Round 7, 2001||2003-05||18|
|Nick Kaczur||LT/RT||Round 3, 2005||2005-09||62|
|Logan Mankins||LG||Round 1, 2005||2005-present||130|
|Dan Connolly||OG/C||Undrafted, 2005||2008-present||58|
|Sebastian Vollmer||RT||Round 2, 2009||2009-present||52|
|Ryan Wendell||C||Undrafted, 2009||2009-present||37|
|Nate Solder||LT||Round 1, 2011||2011-present||47|
|Marcus Cannon||RT||Round 5, 2011||2011-present||7|
Source: Pro Football Reference
Since he became the offensive line coach, Scarnecchia has coached seven undrafted free agents into starters.
The Patriots ended up with top-notch starters each of the five times they used a second-round pick or higher on an offensive linemen. Between Damien Woody, Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder, the Patriots got 460 starts out of their highly drafted linemen.
Not once did an offensive lineman turn into a "bust" of a draft pick. Those guys were all gifted with great talents, but even they would admit they owe it all to Scarnecchia.
Just heard about Pats OL coach Dante Scarnecchia retiring....taught me how to be a pro. One of the best coaches I've ever been around!— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) January 22, 2014
The future of the Patriots is already set. In the same breath as Scarnecchia's retirement, the Patriots also announced the hiring of Dave DeGuglielmo as new offensive line coach.
DeGuglielmo was a four-year starter for Boston University as a guard and a center from 1987-90, and he quickly made the jump to a collegiate coach through the '90s. He has made the rounds in a nine-year NFL career, spending time with New York Giants (2004-08), Miami Dolphins (2009-11) and New York Jets (2012) as an offensive line coach and an assistant.
His offensive lines have been a success; in 2008, the Giants set a team record for rushing yards in a season (2,518, 5.0 yards per carry), and they were one of only four teams to average over 4.0 YPA or better each year from 2004-08, according to the Patriots' official website. The Jets' 2012 offensive line was the third best in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
That's a good start, but DeGuglielmo has some big shoes to fill. Few positional coaches make a lasting impression—not just on an organization, but on the league—like Scarnecchia did in his time with the Patriots.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.