FOXBORO, Mass. — About three months ago at this time, Dante Scarnecchia was peacefully enjoying retirement and had no plans to return to football.
Then the one team he’d make an exception for gave him a call, and he couldn’t pass up the chance.
Scarnecchia was re-hired as the New England Patriots’ offensive line coach in mid-February, two years after he announced his retirement from the same post following the 2013 season. Speaking to reporters Monday, Scarnecchia explained his thought process when the Patriots called him shortly after their AFC Championship Game loss to the Denver Broncos.
“Maybe two weeks after the season, my wife and I were out in California doing some stuff for the University of the Pacific, and I got a call.” Scarnecchia said. “(The Patriots) asked if I would be interested in coming back. Over the next, probably it was about eight to 10 days, we decided to come back. That was basically it.”
Scarnecchia was a Patriots lifer before his first retirement. He first joined New England in 1982 as a special teams coach and spent 29 of the next 31 years with the Patriots, taking over as offensive line coach in 1999. Massachusetts native Dave DeGuglielmo took over in 2014 after Scarnecchia’s retirement but was fired following the 2015 season, at which point the Pats reached out to Scarnecchia with an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“Honestly, I would have probably not gone back into coaching if I had to go somewhere else,” he said.
Scarnecchia admitted retirement, which allowed him to travel and spend time with his wife and grandchildren, was “very, very hard to give up.” But after recharging his batteries for two years, the 68-year-old is ready to get back in the game.
“I love coaching football,” Scarnecchia said. “I didn’t retire because I didn’t like coaching football. I retired because I got tired of the lifestyle. Two years off, I’m OK.”
Scarnecchia will have his work cut out for him. The Patriots’ offensive line was a major weak spot in New England’s season-ending loss to Denver and will need to play well out of the gate in 2016 with starting quarterback Tom Brady set to miss the first four games of the season.
Still, the veteran head coach is up to the challenge, even if it means returning to the grueling schedule of an NFL season.
“I didn’t miss the routine,” Scarnecchia said. “I was reminded of the routine when I got back and the second day we were in a 14-hour personnel meeting. I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ But that’s all right.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images