Dante Scarnecchia's legend in New England is built on both longevity and success.
Sure part of his allure – and the excitement of his reported "likely" return this spring to Bill Belichick's coaching staff after two years of retirement – is the fact that he brings 30-plus years of NFL experience, all but two of those years coming in New England.
But a much bigger part of the draw that's invigorated Patriots Nation with the potential return of the coaching legend is his ability. It's an ability he proved time and time again. An ability to take supposedly lesser levels of offensive line talent and turn it into a cohesive unit that was more than good enough to get the job done at a championship level.
As the old saying goes, Scarnecchia has proven capable of taking chicken you-know-what and turning it into championship-caliber, award-winning chicken salad.
The lust for such a legendary coaching return is also clearly fueled not just by Scarnecchia's past accomplishments, but also the Patriots offensive line's failures in the AFC title game, getting embarrassed by the Broncos Von Miller-led defensive front in the season-ending loss in Denver. Of course, now Cam Newton and the Panthers offensive line know what that feels like as well.
Regardless, Scarnecchia is reportedly riding a white horse back into the offensive line room at Gillette Stadium. And there is no better way to sum up what the veteran of 32 NFL seasons and 44 seasons of overall coaching brings back to the mix than to look back at some of the success he's had in the past with less than top-end talent.
Here's a look at the starting lineups along the offensive line that Scarnecchia led to Super Bowl glory as well as a few other notable names over the years he developed from camp bodies to key starters:
Super Bowl XXXVI
LT Matt Light, LG Mike Compton, C Damien Woody, RG Joe Andruzzi, RT Greg Robinson-Randall. Key backup, Grant Williams.
This group was anchored by a rookie on the left side, with the second-round pick Light, and the second-round pick Robinson-Randall on the right. Andruzzi was a former Div. II undrafted rookie signing off the street, while Woody was a solid center who, oh by the way, was incapable of a shotgun snap. Oh, and the former undrafted rookie Williams had to replace Light in the biggest game in franchise history against the mythical Rams.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
LT Light, LG Rush Hochstein, C Dan Koppen, RG Andruzzi, RT Tom Ashworth.
While Koppen would establish a high level of play in his career, at this point he was simply a fifth-round rookie that Scarnecchia coached up and counted on in the middle. Andruzzi and Light were well entrenched in the trenches, but Hochstein was a practice squad pickup who, as you may remember, Warren Sapp mocked at media day before the big game. Ashworth, was another former undrafted rookie and practice squad pickup. If you're counting, that's a Super Bowl-winning line with a second-round pick, a fifth-round rookie, a former fifth-round pick practice squad call-up and a pair of undrafted players. Scarnecchia didn't care, he just got it done and got his line to get it done with all the world watching.
Super Bowl XXXIX
LT Light, LG Andruzzi, C Koppen, RG Stephen Neal, RT Brandon Gorin.
One year later Scarnecchia's line had a different look, but once again showed his talents. Neal joined the group as a former world-class wrestler who, as Bill Belichick likes to say, didn't even know how to put football pads on when he first arrived in New England. Gorin was a former seventh-round pick who landed in Foxborough on the practice squad and a developed for a couple years. Oh, and this group was the driving-blocking force that helped Corey Dillon churn out a franchise-record 1,635 rushing yards during the 2004 regular season.
Ironically, one of Scarnecchia's most talented lines was the 2007 squad that included three Pro Bowlers (Light, Koppen and first-round pick LG Logan Mankins), that got its collective hats handed to it in the devastating loss in Super Bowl XLII.
But Scarnecchia's impressive development abilities weren't just shown in his Super Bowl offensive lines over the years. There were plenty of other developmental talents like Donald Thomas, Billy Yates, Nick McDonald, Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly, some of whom cashed in on Scarnecchia's coaching in free agency but never were able to live up to New England success elsewhere.
The legend they call Scar in reportedly set to return to Foxborough. And that immediately has everybody feeling better about the team's young offensive line. As it should, because Scarnecchia's track record speaks for itself.