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The Wisdom Of Dante Scarnecchia On Display At Super Bowl Media Day

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

HOUSTON (CBS) -- It doesn't sell newspapers, and it doesn't draw radio or TV ratings, but the play of the Patriots' offensive line this season has been as big a reason as any other for the Patriots' being able to reach the Super Bowl as opposed to falling short.

The reason it's not the most inspirational topic is that the intricacies of the position don't always translate well to the offensive line layman. Whether it's footwork, pre-snap communication, punch technique or any other bit of mechanics, it's typically not what folks discuss while sitting around and enjoying the game. It's more of a results-oriented business than anything else.

But the offensive line has been a unit of strength for the Patriots all year long, and it's no coincidence that its rebound has come in Dante Scarnecchia's first year back on the job as the offensive line coach.

As far as football coaches go, Dante's name is legend. He's got more than four decades of coaching experience, and whatever it is that he's been able to do since returning from his brief retirement, it's been working.

It's rare for any Patriots assistant coach to speak to the media, so media day -- excuse me, "Opening Night" -- presented the rare opportunity to hear from Scarnecchia himself.

Here's what he had to say.

About being at Media Day...
No, no, I hate this. Being out here right now? I like coaching. Coaching's good. I never didn't like coaching. I didn't get away from the game because I didn't like coaching. I didn't like -- I still don't like -- getting off the bus at 5 o'clock in the morning. ... The first day I was back, we went into a personnel meeting at 7 or 8 in the morning, and I left at 7:30 at night.

But that's part of the deal, and you know, you just deal with it. I like being out there. I like meeting with them in the classroom, I like being out on the field, I like teaching the game. All that stuff's a lot of fun for me. And I like the games. All that other stuff, it's tough, but you've got to do it. You've got to do every minute of it.

On if he was 'ready to come back' after his time off...
I don't know if I was ready to come back when it was time to come back. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to come back, and I wasn't even looking for that. I guess, the call was made, and my wife and I talked about it for about 10 days, and we decided to go ahead and do it again. I'm going to be 69 years old next month. I like what I'm doing right now and I'm going to continue to do it, see how it all goes.

On how fortunate the offensive line has been in terms of health...
Yeah, it's been unbelievable, and I think that's been a huge factor in us improving as an offensive line. Two things: continuity -- everybody's playing the same position -- and health. I mean, really good health. We haven't even put anyone out there that before a game you say, 'I hope they can make it all the way through.' I mean, we've got some guys who have been out there and have really had good health, they've practiced every week. I mean, really, we haven't even had anybody miss any practices. And that's a tribute to [strength and conditioning coach] Moses Cabrera and the strength guys. They've done a great job. The players themselves have done a great job. So I think those have been the big things.

On the rarity of enjoying such a healthy season on the O-line...
I think the Falcons have had all five of their starters for all 16 games, all 18 games, so you're talking about two teams. Other than the first three games for us, we had some guys that missed, but after that, we were all right.

On the changes from the rotations on the line last year compared to the continuity this year...
Yeah, I think we all felt that way. It's not a good thing. I think you have to have flexibility within your line, because you only take seven to a game. If you lose one or two guys, I mean, you've got to have guards that can play tackle and tackles that can play guard, and guards that can play center. If you don't have that flexibility, you're dead. You're dead in this league.

So, having said that, there's a difference between flexibility and continuity. I just think, if you have the left guard and left tackle playing together for 16 games, then when he says 'A,' the other guy knows what 'A' means, whatever that is. It's just so much easier. And that's been a big factor -- the biggest factor. Believe me.

On what makes Bill Belichick unique, and what their working relationship has been like...
It's always been good. He has a vision of what he wants things to look like, and he shares that -- well, I was going to say share that vision, but he certainly makes it clear what that vision is. And that's why he's easy to work for. He wants things a certain way, and he expects things to be done a certain way, but he really gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility and trusts us to do the things that we want to do.

Now, he's the boss. The thing about doing it this way, and what you want is either an explanation or, 'Yeah, all right, we'll do it that way.' The explanation of why we shouldn't, or no explanation. Just, 'Yeah, we'll do it.' But I think he's easy to work for, and hey, the guy's one of the greatest coaches that's ever lived. It's a pleasure to work for him. It really is.

On Belichick being open to assistant coaches having freedom, and whether that's rare...
No, I don't think [it's rare]. I think the good ones all possess that quality. I really believe that.

On one of his players saying that he's very funny in meetings and can connect with the younger players on the team...
[Laughs] Who said it?

It was Shaq [Mason].
[Laughs] I don't know if I'm funny in meetings. I wouldn't say like I'm Shecky Greene up there. No, I just think you've got to get your work done and whatever you have to do to get it done. that's pretty much it.

On if his workdays are still as long as they were earlier in his coaching career...
Yeah, it's worse. I don't know why. It should be easier, shouldn't it? I mean, shoot, 45 years, it should be easier. I think what really happens now is that we have all these ways to look at our opponents that we never had before. Really and truly, we have access to every game that they've played over the last 15 years. I mean, if we wanted to research Dan Quinn, we could do it, and we have. The way they call their defenses, all that. And so, instead of saying it's just going to be this or that, you always want to make sure, and so you just stay in there and grind it and grind it and grind it. Because it's so big. Every week, it's so big. And you want to do your best work. And really, this week, we better do our best work.

On what time he arrives to work in the morning...
Oh, that's between me and me.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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