For the second time in six years, the Patriots most under-discussed personnel loss didn't come from the roster, but from the sidelines. The first time Dante Scarnecchia retired was 2014. They managed to win a Super Bowl with him just working as an occasional per diem in a consultant role. But the following year was such a Roland Emmerichian disaster on the offensive line, with Tom Brady under duress to an extent that hadn't been charted in the NFL since 1970, that the Pats talked him back out of retirement to troubleshoot the problems and help win two more championships.
And you need to look no further to measure Scarnecchia's importance than the job his unit did in the 2018 Super Bowl run to understand his effect. Three times they were faced with an elite tandem of pass rushers: Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram with the Chargers, Dee Ford and Justin Houston in Kansas City, and Ndamukong Suh with two-time DPOTY Aaron Donald with the Rams. And in those games, Brady was sacked a grand total of one time, with just six QB hits on 125 pass attempts.
Not to mention the fact he first came to Foxboro during the first Reagan Administration, the only positive to ever come out of the Ron Meyer era. So when Scar speaks, you're damned right you better listen.
He went on the NFL's SiriusXM station and was, naturally, asked the same question every Pats coach, past and present, will be asked until the death heat of the universe ends all existence: How Jarrett Stidham will do replacing the legend.
“He’s a different guy in a couple of ways,” Scarnecchia said. “No. 1, he doesn’t have the wealth of experience that Tom has. There’s no doubt about that, and you have to concede that. Yes, there’s going to be some things where he’s going to hold the ball longer than you want it to be held, but that’s all about growing up in this league, and you know that as well as I do. You know, those young guys, they take some time. But I would say this for Jarrett, too -- he’s a bright kid, and he’s a guy, who when he doesn’t know, he’ll take off. He showed in the preseason last year that he’s got some skills and he knows when to get out of there and where the escape points may be and when he gets out of there, he also knows he better get down, because he knows better than to try to run through guys as well. You’re not running through many guys in this league.
“So there’s going to be some growing pains. There’s no doubt about it. But the guy does have skills. He’s got a great mind. He cares. He shows up early. He goes home late. I wish him nothing but the best. If still there, I would just say, ‘Hey, listen fellas, we’ve got to do everything we can to make this guy as comfortable as we can.' And I’m sure the guys that are going to coach those guys this year are saying exactly that. 'We’ve got to be as good as we can be every down and give this guy all the support we possibly can and let him get comfortable and build confidence and be the kind of player that we want him to be and that he wants to be more importantly.'”
What more could possibly want to hear? What could be more reassuring as we sail into the uncharted waters of an uncertain future full of mystery? These are the words of a man who is arguably the greatest position coach in NFL history for a reason. Because Scarnecchia isn't in the prediction business. He's not doing horoscopes or reading Tarot cards. He's a problem solver. A nuts and bolts guy. He's the engineer in every movie about a ship, a submarine or a spaceship, who keeps the engines running after an enemy attack, patches up the leaks or will divert power to the phaser banks if that's what you need. He never had any intention of being an officer, much less the captain. He just wants to fix stuff in his no-nonsense way.
So faced with the Patriots breaking in a new starting quarterback for the first time in 19 years, Scar gives us not predictions, but a window into how Stidham will manage and how the franchise plans to manage him. There'll be growing pains and mistakes along the way, but he'll limit them. He's a hard working guy puts in the hours and the sweat equity to get better. He's smart enough to take what the defense gives him but not take stupid chances with his health. And the plan will be for all involved to rally around him, elevate their games and not fall into the mindset where the GOAT will just pull out the game in the end.
To steal a phrase from Mr. Kraft that is engraved into white gold on a ring Scarnecchia owns, of all the words I've heard about Stidham and the Patriots this year, these are unequivocally the sweetest. Especially when you consider the source. It makes you realize that the new offensive line coaches Carmen Bricillo and Cole Popovich might have a tougher job replacing a legend than Stidham will.