ATLANTA — The nerves that accompany an appearance on football’s grandest stage haven’t abated for Dante Scarnecchia, who’s about to coach in his 10th Super Bowl as a New England Patriots assistant. They’ve intensified.
Scarnecchia, the Patriots’ legendary offensive line coach, remains fueled by an absolute loathing of failure, which he’s experienced in five of his nine Super Bowl trips.
As one of just two Patriots assistants (along with running backs coach Ivan Fears) who predate Bill Belichick’s arrival as head coach in 2000, Scarnecchia was on the sideline for each the franchise’s first two Super Bowls. They lost both, the first coming in the form of a 46-10 beatdown against the juggernaut 1985 Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX.
Scarnecchia remembers the anguish he felt after that game. It’s the same feeling he had after later losses to the Green Bay Packers in 1996, the New York Giants in 2007 and 2011 and the Philadelphia Eagles last year.
“It was against the Bears — the ’85 Bears,” Scarnecchia, who will turn 71 next month, recalled Wednesday at the Patriots’ Super Bowl LIII hotel. “We had won three straight on-the-road playoff games as a wild-card team. I thought that was amazing. And then to play the Bears — maybe the best defensive team in the history of the league — we got slaughtered, obviously.
“But what I remember most about it all is this: When the game is over, there’s no worse feeling in the world. You can say all that stuff you want about, ‘Hey, you came in second.’ You didn’t. You’re just one of 31 teams who came in second. There’s no joy about losing in this game — none.
“The nice ring ceremony you have over at (team owner Robert) Kraft’s house (after a Super Bowl victory) — when you get your AFC championship ring, it’s in the team meeting room. ‘Have a box.’ That’s no fun. When it’s the confetti of the other team after the game, all you want to do is get off the field. It’s not fun. I’ve been on the south side of that game a few times.”
Scarnecchia, who first joined the Patriots organization in 1982, has coached in all but one of the franchise’s Super Bowl appearances, with Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks occurring while he was temporarily retired. Considered one of the NFL’s top O-line coaches, he confirmed earlier this week he will be returning for the 2019 season.
New England’s offensive line has been a strength of the team throughout the season and especially in these playoffs, allowing zero sacks in the last two games while spearheading a rushing attack that racked up 155 yards in the divisional round and 176 in the AFC Championship Game.
The Patriots will take on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images