As he retires, Dante Scarnecchia lauded for the careers he impacted with Patriots

As he retires, Dante Scarnecchia lauded for the careers he impacted with Patriots

MIAMI -- No matter which player you ask, regardless of position, the respect with which Patriots players speak about Dante Scarnecchia is ubiquitous. 

In the wake of the news that the legendary assistant coach will retire, one player made it clear: There will never be another "Scar."

"It's part of this business," the player said. "Coaches change. Players change every year. It's just something you have to deal with. It is what it is. There'll never be another Dante Scarnecchia. The next coach doesn't need to be Dante Scarnecchia, they need to be themselves."

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The Patriots have a couple of in-house candidates to fill Scarnecchia's offensive line coach shoes in coaching assistant's Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo. Popovich has assisted Scarnecchia in previous seasons, but it was Bricillo who took on those duties in 2019. Bricillo joined the team prior to the start of last season. 

Bricillo spent the previous nine seasons coaching offensive linemen at Youngstown State. Popovich has been with the Patriots for four seasons and served as assistant running backs coach in 2019. 

No matter who is the "next man up," as goes one of the team's mottoes, Scarnecchia has been irreplaceable for the Patriots. 

"I think he's done so much for the game he deserves some credit," the Patriots player said. "Number one, I think he was a great coach. His record, his career, his history, the success of the teams, lines, players under his [guidance] speak for himself. More importantly, I think he cared about each one of his players on a personal level. That made a player want to buy in. 

"Two, I think he was just a great ambassador of the game. I think being able to talk to him and hear him and get to play for him, he loves the game more than anything and is an ambassador."

Scarnecchia has long been a hard-driving coach on the practice field. He's meticulous about the way in which his players carry the blocking pads in drills. After practices, he wanted his players to place their helmets in a perfectly straight line on the turf during cool-down stretching periods. 

There were rules to adhere to, standards to uphold. If they weren't, Scarnecchia wasn't above raising his voice to a decibel level that could be heard by most training camp attendees at open summer practices. 

Players tried to do things Scarnecchia's way. They tried to live The Gospel of Scar. They tried because they valued their jobs. But they also tried because they wanted to make Scarnecchia happy. He showed them that he cared for them, and they tried to pay him back with their effort. 

"I think people forget at the end of the day, we're people," the Patriots player said. "There's a personal aspect to this game. You're not just collecting a paycheck every week. There's a personal aspect to it, there's more to it why we all play. 

"We all believed in him. We believed what he was telling us was for our benefit. He wanted the team to succeed, but he [wanted his players to succeed] when someone's putting that much time and effort into it." 

Scarnecchia's compiled what could be considered a Hall of Fame resume over his five decades of coaching. He won five Super Bowls in New England. He helped Nate Solder and Trent Brown pull in record contracts as free agents. He helped tutor Stephen Neal, turning him from a college wrestler into a Super Bowl champion. 

"You can't take away from what the athletes went out there and did at the end of the day, under his teaching and his leadership," the Patriots player said. "Players were able to develop themselves and make a career for themselves. A lot of that credit does go to [Scarnecchia]. Getting them to buy in and believe not only in him but in themselves, teaching them the right way of doing things."

Bruce Arians taking a page from Bill Belichick's book with Tom Brady treatment

Bruce Arians taking a page from Bill Belichick's book with Tom Brady treatment

Here's one common perception about what drew Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bruce Arians is a "player's coach" whose more friendly attitude will be a welcome respite for the quarterback after 20 years of dealing with Bill Belichick.

That might be true to some extent. But Arians wants you to know that the six-time Super Bowl champion won't get any special treatment in Tampa Bay.

"He’s just another guy. He gets cussed out like everybody else, so it’s no different that way," Arians told reporters Wednesday in a video conference.

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That's exactly how Belichick treated Brady in New England, as there are legendary stories of the Patriots head coach ripping TB12 in film sessions in front of the entire team.

Arians' version of "cussing out" Brady might look very different than Belichick's, but at least he's committed to showing that the 43-year-old won't be above criticism.

Arians also has worked with enough elite quarterbacks -- from Peyton Manning in Indianapolis to Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh -- to know Brady will be his own toughest critic.

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"It’s non-stop grind with him," Arians said. "It was the same way with Peyton. I think they all have the same qualities of willing themselves on other people to win and making them accept it quickly. All the good ones, they all had it. When they talked, everybody listened, and Tom has that for sure."

Arians also pointed out that Brady didn't need any prodding to organize Tampa-area throwing sessions with his Bucs teammates as early as May after joining the team in March.

"Obviously he has the rings and all that, but what he did over at Berkeley [Prep], that was strictly on him," Arians said. "Nobody edged him on to do that. He was like, ‘Hey, let’s get going.’ Right now, he’s tired of walkthroughs already. He’s like, ‘We’ve got to practice.’ We’ve got to wait about five more days, but yeah, I love that about him."

Arians clearly appreciates Brady's passion and respects the veteran QB's pedigree. But with that respect comes the right to call out his signal-caller if warranted.

Should Patriots move Joe Thuney to right tackle? 'Whatever is necessary'

Should Patriots move Joe Thuney to right tackle? 'Whatever is necessary'

It's not exactly a been-there-done-that situation for Joe Thuney. But if the Patriots asked their starting left guard of the last four years to bounce over to the right side of the line and play tackle?

He has ... technically ... been there and done that. 

Eight snaps. Thuney saw eight snaps at right tackle last season in the season-opener after Marcus Cannon left the game injured. And now that Cannon has opted out of the 2020 season, folks want to know if Thuney will once again be the "next man up" at that position. 

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"Whatever can help the team," he said in a video conference call with reporters Wednesday. "I think I got a couple right tackle snaps in the Pittsburgh game, the opening game last year. Whatever can help the team. Doesn't matter where. Trying to do what I can, try to use the tools that I have to help the team. Whatever's necessary. I just want to be out there and playing."

Perhaps the most important question the Patriots have to answer as they get ready for the regular season to kick off — outside of, "Is Cam Newton healthy?" — is what will they do at right tackle in Cannon's absence? There is no clear replacement.

Could be 2019 third-round pick Yodny Cajuste. Could be last year's early-season trade acquisition Korey Cunningham. Could be Thuney. 

But how that question gets answered could go a long way in determining wins and losses for Bill Belichick's club as it takes on a regular-season schedule loaded with dominating pass-rushers who like to go to work against right tackles.

"Definitely different," Thuney said of his brief experience at right tackle. "I think the coaches did a great job of trying to get reps and everything in practices. We got a lot of guys who get reps at different positions just because you never know. You go into a game with seven o-linemen usually. The more you can do, the better. Just tried to keep the fundamentals the same and do whatever I could."

The issue with shifting Thuney over to that side, would be that for whatever comfort Josh McDaniels and his offense would be granted in making the move, the team would be paying for it with a drop-off at left guard. Thuney has in the last few seasons established himself as one of the best left guards in football, earning the franchise tag this offseason which will guarantee him almost $15 million for the year. 

It's a weighty conundrum. Move a very good player to a spot where he might not be as effective and replace him with a backup? Or, if that's considered robbing Peter to pay Paul, roll with a complete unknown at one of the most important positions on the line? Is it easier to find a serviceable replacement at guard or tackle? Who's available?

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All of those questions will end up determining the Patriots' plan up front in some way shape or form.

Tasked with replacing left tackle Isaiah Wynn in 2019, the Patriots opted to sign veteran street free agent Marshall Newhouse and make him a starter rather than, say, bump Thuney out to left tackle and insert reserve Jermaine Eluemunor at left guard. Perhaps that strategy is indicative of how the Patriots proceed this season. Or perhaps Newhouse's performance last season as a fill-in will urge them to take a different approach. 

Whatever they decide, it sounds like Thuney — who's going into a contract year while on the tag — will be OK with it.

"You're dealing with different body types, going from guard to end," Thuney explained. "Your legs and arms are reversed and stuff, I guess. We do a great job moving guys around in practice so it's not the first time you've ever taken a snap on the right side during the game. 

"Just the next-man-up mentality, and if that means shifting someone over that means shifting someone over. Just trying to do what I can. Just want to help the team and want to be out there."