Dante Scarnecchia thought he was finally done with football, but Bill Belichick talked him into coming back to save the New England Patriots‘ offensive line. It was one of the team’s weak points in the 2015 season and Scarnecchia’s return as the offensive line coach made an instant improvement. The season even ended with the PAtriots winning Super Bowl LI, the fourth Super Bowl win for the franchise where Scarnecchia on the sideline.
The 68-year-old Scarnecchia has been coaching since 1970 after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and playing offensive lineman at California Western University. He initially retired after the 2013 season, meaning that Super Bowl XLIX is the only Super Bowl the Patriots have ever been involved in without Scarnecchia on the sideline.
Here’s a look at Scarnecchia’s life and family.
1. Scarnecchia’s Son Steve Is an Assistant to Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn
Scarnecchia isn’t the only member of his family coaching inn Super Bowl LI. His son, Steven Scarnecchia is an assistant to Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn. According to his team bio, Steven “is responsible for coordinating the Falcons meeting and practice schedules and football calendar, managing the football budget, and orchestration of team and staff events as well as providing administrative assistance to the coaching and operations staffs.”
In an interview with Patriots.com, Scarnecchia said he’s proud of his son for getting a job at a “great organization” and said coaching against his son is a daunting task.
“It is a bit of a daunting task combining Steve’s joy and our joy, and now it’s a competition but that’s the game,” Scarnecchia told Patriots.com. “He’s been on other staffs that we’ve played against, but never in a game of this magnitude. He’s going to work as hard as he can work. We’re going to work as hard as we can work, and we’ll let the chips fall.”
His wife, Susan, also told Patriots.com that she is staying neutral at the Super Bowl.
“People keeping saying, ‘This is your husband and your son. This is a win-win situation.’ I’m trying to see it that way, but I think after the hurt of the person that’s lost has passed, when enough time can pass, you can look back and say, ‘That was amazing. What a blessing that was for everyone,’” Susan Sarnecchia told Patriots.com. “But coming right up to it now, someone is going to win and someone is going to lose. I care about them both, and I know how much both are invested.”
Over 20 members of the Scarnecchia family will be at Super Bowl LI. Scarnecchia also has a daughter and two grandchildren.
2. Even After Scarnecchia Retired, Belichick Asked for His Advice on the Offensive Line
Sarnecchia retired in 2013, but Sports Illustrated reports that Bill Belichick continued to ask for his advice. The magazine reports that he would often help the head coach evaluate offensive line prospects and attended the Senior Bowl and combine. Sarnecchia joked to friends that Belichick was “wearing my ass out, sending me all over the place,” SI reports.
The Boston Herald reported in 2014 that Scarnecchia influenced Belichick’s decision to draft Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming.
3. He’s Been Involved in Every Patriots Super Bowl Appearance Except Super Bowl XLIX
Scarnecchia, who was born in Los Angeles, played at Taft Junior College and California Western University as an offensive guard and senior. In 1970, he stayed a California Western as an offensive line coach and continued coaching at the college level until 1982, when Ron Myer brought his staff from Southern Methodist University to the pro level with the Patriots.
Since 1982, Scarnecchia has coached for the Patriots, although he had a brief tenure with the Indianapolis Colts in 1989 and 1990. Therefore, Scarnecchia has been involved in every Super Bowl appearance for the Patriots, except their Super Bowl XLIX victory.
One of Scarnecchia’s best seasons was 2009, when the Patriots gave up just 18 sacks. He’s been involved with 18 of the franchise’s 23 playoff seasons.
4. Nate Solder Says Scarnecchia Is an ‘Excellent Teacher’ Who Can Break Down the Game
When asked why Scarnecchia has had such success, offensive lineman Nate Solder explained to USA Today:
“Well he’s an excellent teacher. He can break down the game so we can understand it, he can break it down so we can play at a higher level and he’s consistent too. You’ll see from day one of OTAs all the way through to now. Super Bowl practices, we’ll be doing the same drills because those drills translate, and he harps on the same things that really helped me improve my game.”
Josh McDaniels, the Patriots offensive coordinator, also noted how good Scarneccia is at communication with players. “They believe in him and trust him. Then, he makes them better. Through that process, you have a group of five guys that play well together because they all believe in each other,” McDaniels told USA Today.
5. He Said He Only Retired Because ‘I Got Tired of the Lifestyle’ & Needed 2 Years Off
After a terrible performance in the 2016 AFC Championship game against the Denver Broncos, Belichick knew that the offensive line needed fixing. Brady was sacked four times in that game and the running backs only had 31 yards on 14 carries. The day after the game, Dave DeGuglielmo was told he wouldn’t be coming back for the 2016 regular season.
Belichick knew that Scarnecchia had to come back. In an interview with the Boston Globe in May 2016, Scarnecchia said that coming back wasn’t an easy decision.
“I liked being retired. Retirement was great. We saw things we hadn’t seen, ever. Took trips, spent time with our grandkids. All that was great,” he told the Globe. “To a degree, it’s very, very hard to give up. We talked about it, my wife and I, and decided that this would be a good thing on a lot of different levels, as far as the grandkids being able to come to the games for free, and just be part of it all.”
He didn’t leave the Patriots because he had soured on coaching. He just needed a break.
“I didn’t retire because I didn’t like coaching football,” Scarnecchia said. “I retired because I got tired of the lifestyle. Two years off, I’m OK.”