The media around the New England Patriots has focused on the loss of Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the trade that sent the retired Rob Gronkowski to join him and the list of departures from other free agents. All of those losses could prove to be costly, but at least one NFL analyst is pointing to another departure as a potential gap the team has to fill heading into the 2020 season.
Patriots Lose Valuable Piece at ‘Critical’ Time, Says Expert
USA Today’s Jordy McElroy talked about Jarrett Stidham’s chances of successfully following in Brady’s footsteps, but in doing so, he observantly pointed out the loss of a key member of the team’s coaching staff.
Outside of Brady, longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia might end up being the biggest loss for the team. His absence at such a critical juncture for the organization could have a significant trickle-down effect, especially if the unit can’t keep grass stains off Stidham’s jersey. It’s only one of many concerns in a post-Brady era few expected.
Unless you’re a hardcore Patriots fan, you probably don’t hear the name Scarnecchia much, but those who have followed the team know him well. Scarnecchia worked for the Patriots for 34 years, and he had been the team’s offensive line coach since 1999 (with a two-year retirement plugged in between). He has almost as many Super Bowl rings as Brady and Bill Belichick with five, and just about as much respect.
Many believe his absence cost the Patriots a Super Bowl appearance in 2016.
Scarnecchia retired at the conclusion of the 2 season at the age of 72. It’s impossible for someone to have been a part of the Patriots organization for that long to not leave a void when they’re gone. The Patriots had to replace him and the team moved in that direction when it elevated Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo to higher positions.
Those two have been a part of the organization, and they have led the virtual meetings during the pandemic-affected offseason programs for the O-Line. Veteran center David Andrews said the familiarity has helped.
Cole Popovich and Carm (Carmen Bricillo), it’s not like it’s someone they brought in and a lot of us haven’t even met. These are guys that — Cole’s been there for a while, Carm’s been there since last year. Pretty much everyone in the room right now other than the rookies have a relationship with those guys, are familiar with them. I think that helps a lot. Having those guys that we’ve been around for a long time and have been in our system helps a lot because there’s a lot of continuity there.
Popovich was the assistant running backs coach last season, and Bricilo came onboard in 2019. They both worked under Scarnecchia as his assistants, so there is a cohesion and the transition could be smooth. However, it’s hard to account for the experience and connection Scarnecchia built with head coach Bill Belichick offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
In a year with so much transition and youth on the offensive side of the ball, the team will miss Scarnecchia’s presence.