Patriots

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."

What a new Collective Bargaining Agreement means for Tom Brady negotiations

What a new Collective Bargaining Agreement means for Tom Brady negotiations

The NFL is closing in on labor peace with a new CBA expected to be in place before free agency begins on March 18.

So far, the likelihood of an expanded playoff field in each conference (seven teams), an added playoff game (2 vs. 7 in the first round) and the addition of a 17th regular-season game is getting most of the attention.

But when it comes to immediate local relevance, a new CBA is potentially good news for negotiations between Tom Brady and the Patriots. Without a new CBA in place, teams can’t use the cap-protecting trick of inserting voidable years into a contract.

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The CBA is stocked with triggers in the final year of the pact that force both sides to the bargaining table to ensure labor peace. Preventing teams from having the ability to spread money into phony seasons so they can spread out cap hits is one of them.

With a new CBA in place before March 18, the Patriots can do what they did last year if they want to make Brady another one-year offer that’s fairly lucrative. Just give a multi-year deal that “voids” after one season. That way, the cap hit for 2020 can be split over the life of the contract.

Of course, the price is paid eventually. Cap is not crap. The Patriots are already facing $13.5M in money charged to their 2020 cap whether Brady plays for them this year or not. If they do it again, they’ll be compounding the charge.

The counterargument to that is this. Once the CBA is approved and the league re-enters negotiations with TV partners and starts to milk the gaming industry for profits, the annual salary cap (projected at $200M for this season) could rise quickly. So the percentage of the cap money kicked down the road is smaller than it appears now.

While we’re at it, here’s a couple of musings on the CBA ... 

There’s been surprisingly little discussion about how gambling revenue will be divvied up under the new pact. The proposal on the table calls for the players’ share of the pie to rise from 47 percent of gross revenues to 48.5 percent. But gambling represents a cash firehose for NFL owners that they’ve been standing at the end of for a few years with their 32 greedy mouths wide open.

Instead of paying attention to that, the NFLPA’s membership is looking at the shiny object that is a 17th regular season game and wondering if it’s good for them. Yes, of course it’s good for them. A week of preseason games will be wiped out, practice squads will be expanded and an extra team will make the postseason, thereby giving more players playoff shares. Also, adding a game means more revenue for everyone when the new TV deal is worked out, meaning player health benefits will increase.

The veteran players with "tenure" who’ve gotten their second contracts may be squawking loudest right now and they’ll shout down the easily-cowed younger players but it’s barely even worth arguing. A 17th game is an easy ask. But the NFLPA should be watching owners closely for gambling chicanery.

Also, all the concern players registered over Article 46 and Roger Goodell’s absolute power? All the complaints about getting weed legalized under the new pact? All the stuff that – three years ago we were told were going to be real sticking points at the bargaining table? Don’t hear much about them right now. Know why?

The players actually got a kick-ass deal in 2011 that’s only gotten better for them over the last nine years as the salary cap’s risen from $133M in 2014 to north of $200M this year.

Curran: Where things stand for Brady, Pats a month from free agency

Point/Counterpoint: Do the Patriots have enough to convince Tom Brady to stay?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Point/Counterpoint: Do the Patriots have enough to convince Tom Brady to stay?

Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry are back for a special offseason edition of "Point/Counterpoint," where they go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related question. Today's topic, unsurprisingly, involves Tom Brady:

If the Patriots want to keep Tom Brady in New England -- and we can debate whether or not that's what they should want, given what it might cost in terms of money and player additions -- their best bet is to keep him from getting to free agency altogether. If he officially hits the market, the floodgates will be open, the bidding war will be well underway, and the Patriots will have an additional $6.75 million dead-money cap charge hitting their books. 

Convincing Brady to eschew the official start of free-agency will be no easy task. He wants to see what's out there for him. But the Patriots might be able to do it if they blow him out of the water by surrounding him with talent before the league year begins on Mar. 18. 

How? Trades. The Patriots and other clubs can come to agreements on trades well before the start of the new league year and then sign off on those deals as soon as the new league year kicks off. Signing players via free agency, and promising Brady they'll be able to lock those players down, would be a tougher road. 

For instance, telling Brady that they'll make a competitive offer to free-agent tight end Hunter Henry might not be enough for the Patriots to convince the 43-year-old to stay. There's simply no guarantee Henry will want to sign, especially if Brady's future is up in the air.

To overwhelm Brady with trades seems more feasible. The Patriots could potentially trade their top draft choice, No. 23 overall, for either Odell Beckham or Stefon Diggs. Both have four years remaining on their respective contracts. Both will count between $14 and $15 million on the cap in 2020. Both offer Brady a true No. 1, game-breaking target. Both have been disgruntled, and both are on teams with new offensive staffs. Seems plausible. 

But why stop there? 

If the wideout position is a little crowded, and if the Patriots would like to clear some cap space to add Beckham or Diggs, they could potentially trade Mohamed Sanu and a third-round pick to Tampa Bay for tight end OJ Howard. Sanu would complement Bucs outside receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin from the slot. Howard, meanwhile, has been a relative afterthought in Bruce Arians' downfield passing game. For him, going to New England would represent a fresh start as he goes into the final year of his rookie contract. The Patriots would pick up about $3 million in cap space with the move. The Bucs have oodles of space already and probably wouldn't mind taking on a little more dough to add a third-round pick. They also have another capable tight end on the roster in Cameron Brate.

Perhaps the Patriots could promise Brady they'll use another one of their third-round picks (they're projected to have three this year) to add a tight end in the draft. LSU's Thad Moss (Randy's son) might pique Brady's interest. Then they could tell Brady they're willing to make an offer to acquire his pal Danny Amendola, who's a free agent. 

Suddenly Brady would be looking at a receiver group that includes Beckham (or Diggs), Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry and Danny Amendola. His tight ends would be Howard and Moss. The cost would be steep, but it might be enough to convince Brady to finish out his career in New England. Even if there are other clubs out there willing to pay him more.

  

“…and then we’ll see if Randy wants to come back and you never know about Gronk. I’m sure we can get the Browns to move on OBJ. Or Landry. Maybe both. Definitely both. We’ll get both. And we actually cloned Scar so don’t worry about the offensive line coach and you might not have heard but Ryan Izzo retired. So … whaddya think? Please, Tom? Please? We’re trying over here. Help us help you.” –

The fever dream scenarios in which Bill Belichick pitches plans to Make Tom Stay are flowing now.

These are the final days of Brady Limbo: the period between the disappointing end to a confusing 2019 season and the witching hour when the Patriots and Brady make their decision to run it back one more time or shut it down.

In a little more than three weeks we’ll know if the radical course change we talked about in December actually happens or not.

Until then, idle time is being filled with spitballing about what the Patriots might do to veer away from the scenario that – when looked at objectively – they’ve already chosen.

The notion that Belichick, in his 46th season as an NFL coach, is going to get sentimental or nostalgic enough to go “all-in” for 2020 to appease a 43-year-old quarterback is a little cuckoo.

Belichick began laying the Brady succession plan six years ago in 2014. Brady – to his credit and to the benefit of Belichick’s “greatest coach ever” legacy – blew that succession plan to bits. Good for Brady. Good for Belichick realizing that – as much as he loved Jimmy Garoppolo – Brady still had more good miles in him no matter what the odometer said.

But rather than a full-on offensive overhaul, it’s a lot more realistic to imagine the Patriots making tweaks for 2020: tweaks that will happen whether Brady is a Patriot or not.

They've been busy spending on offense. They’ve spent three first-round picks on Isaiah Wynn, Sony Michel and N’Keal Harry and a 2020 second-rounder on Mohamed Sanu.

Wynn will be a Pro Bowl-level player if he can catch a break health-wise. Michel showed as a rookie what he can do given a sufficient array of blocking talent in front of him. Harry barely took his first steps as an NFL player and – looking objectively at what he showed over the eight games (including playoffs) – there were plenty of plays to like.

Sanu’s ankle was a mess, and he and Brady couldn’t get things ironed out. Meanwhile, Julian Edelman was beaten down to sawdust, could barely raise one arm, couldn’t cut and still wound up with 100 catches. He’s got more gas in his tank too.  

Any idiot can tell the Patriots blew it at tight end by ignoring the spot in Gronk’s final seasons. That was their No. 1 offensive issue in 2019 because their reliance on the position in both the running and passing game meant the dropoff was from elite to non-existent. Losing James Develin and David Andrews were kicks to the ribs after the Patriots were already down. Maybe both are back at the level they were. Maybe not. It’s a point of concern as is the possible departure of left guard Joe Thuney.

The Patriots have to address those spots or change their scheme to fit the players they do have a helluva lot better than they did last year. And, again, that’s going to happen, Brady or not.

Believing that Belichick is going to have an epiphany in which he says, “We’ve been doing it all wrong! Let’s go bananas and load up for this year!” is just not realistic.

More realistic? Belichick saying to Brady, “Look, we have the people in house. We have the coaching. We had bad luck with health and personnel plans fell through. As you know. I don’t have some big list of players I’m going to buy. I’m not Santa Claus and I don’t want you on my lap telling me which receiver you want. All I want to know is, are you in or are you out?"