Former Patriots right guard Stephen Neal had some strong words for an assistant coach who doesn't receive much publicity.
Dante Scarnecchia has been with the Pats for all but two seasons since 1982, and he has served as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach since Bill Belichick took over in 2000. Scarnecchia is the Patriots' longest-tenured coach, having been with the organization through four regimes since 1991 — Dick MacPherson, Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll and Belichick.
Neal obviously has a special affinity for Scarnecchia, who helped him develop from a college wrestler with little football experience into a top-flight guard in the middle portion of his career.
The Patriots have had a lot of stability on their offensive line since 2005, but health issues and Logan Mankins' contract situation really upset that fluidity in 2010. Still, the Patriots fielded one of the best lines in the league as they plugged in Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell with few hiccups.
By default, offensive linemen don't get a lot of recognition, so it's natural that their coaches receive even less. But despite those bouts of uncertainty in 2010, the Patriots ranked fourth in the NFL in sacks allowed, ninth in rushing yards and second in rushing touchdowns, which are all ways to measure an offensive line's success.
Scarnecchia's offensive linemen have always loved playing for him, and Neal had one last public message for him.
"Dante Scarnecchia, I tell you what, he’s probably one of the greatest coaches to ever have coached this game," said Neal, who retired last week. "He sits down with each and every new guy and tries to make sure everyone is on the same page. He tries to bring them up. He spends so much of his own personal time, which he has none of, trying to get everyone ready to go. To just have an offensive line, where over the last few years with injuries and people coming in and out, there’s no lull there. That has to be the coach. I just think he’s a tremendous coach."