The New England Patriots’ offensive line has received deservedly high praise in the wake of the team’s AFC Championship Game victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The unit of left tackle Trent Brown, left guard Joe Thuney, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon dominated the Chiefs up front — with valuable assists from fullback James Develin and tight end Rob Gronkowski — continuing a streak of incredible effectiveness for the Patriots’ big bruisers.
Since New England’s Week 15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers — a game marred by costly penalties by Patriots offensive linemen, among other miscues — quarterback Tom Brady has been sacked just twice in four games, including zero in the divisional round and zero in Sunday’s conference title game. In those same four games, the Patriots have rushed for 273, 244, 155 and 176 yards — an average of 212 per contest.
The man most responsible for this success? That would be Dante Scarnecchia, the Patriots’ legendary offensive line coach.
“Scar is an extremely hard worker,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “I don’t think anybody works harder than him, and we have a lot of guys that work hard here. He is incredibly well-prepared and detailed in his preparation for the opponent and in terms of his preparation for the players that he’s responsible for coaching on a daily basis. He’s extremely thorough. He’s a great communicator and a great teacher of the fundamental aspects of the game of football.”
Scarnecchia began his tenure as a Patriots assistant in 1991, and he’s coached New England’s O-line for 17 of the last 19 seasons, with head coach Bill Belichick coaxing him out of a brief retirement in 2016.
The 70-year-old’s renowned teaching ability has helped mold a group devoid of high draft picks — Thuney, Mason, Cannon and Brown were selected in the third, fourth, fifth and seventh round, respectively, and Andrews went undrafted — into one of the Patriots’ sturdiest position groups.
“Any player would tell you that in order to be good in this league, you’re going to have to be good fundamentally and technically, and nobody’s a better teacher that I’ve worked with on that stuff than Dante,” McDaniels said. “He’s a great part of our staff. He’s helpful in every way to all the assistant coaches that work with him and he’s a competitive guy that wants to do well in every area that he’s responsible for and does anything and everything he can to help us win.
“I can’t say enough about the type of person he is, the type of coach he is, what he’s meant to me and the other guys on our staff and me, personally, throughout my entire career, because I was young when I came over here on the offensive side, and I’ve learned more from Dante than I can possibly describe. He’s just a great teacher, great person — great, great football coach.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images