Although the news should come as no surprise, there was still a sense of stunned amazement when the Patriots announced Dante Scarnecchia would be retiring after 30 seasons as part of the team's staff.
Scarnecchia spent 30 of his 32 NFL coaching seasons in New England and is the only member of the organization to be part of all seven of the team's trips to the Super Bowl. He was part of the coaching staff for 18 of the franchise's 21 trips to the postseason and coached in 39 of the 43 postseason games in team history.
That's quite an accomplishment for a coach working in the topsy-turvy environment of the National Football League.
"Dante Scarnecchia is a Patriot and NFL legend who defied the phrase 'not for long,'" Bill Belichick said in the release announcing the move. "In an industry of constant change, Dante remained a fixture here for the simple reason that he helped every player reach his highest potential, regardless of who he was, how he was acquired or how much raw talent he had.
"In whatever category a coach can be assessed – evaluator, teacher, motivator, problem solver, disciplinarian, team player, winner – Dante is as good as it gets. As many games as he helped us win and as much as we would like to work with Dante forever, we are blessed with the opportunity to have been with him as long as we were."
Few coaches are as respected as Scarnecchia, who managed to remain with the Patriots through three owners and six head coaches. He arrived in 1982 with then-coach Ron Meyer, and aside from joining Meyer in Indianapolis for two years (1989-90), he stayed with the Patriots in various capacities. Most of his work was as the team's offensive line coach, and he developed a reputation as one of the best in the business.
Scarnecchia annually drew raves for his work with undrafted players and practice squad promotions while managing to keep Tom Brady well-protected through it all. His work ethic, even in his final years, was unmatched by any member of the staff.
"Dante Scarnecchia has been the only coaching constant since I purchased the team in 1994," said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft as part of the team's official statement. "Not coincidentally, he retires as the only coach to have been a part of all seven Super Bowl teams in Patriots franchise history. I want to thank Dante for his leadership, professionalism and always putting the team first.
"For as long as I have known him, he was always the first to arrive in the morning and among the last to leave. He didn't demand respect from his players. He earned it. I loved watching Dante lead by example, especially when he would run stride for stride with his players during their conditioning runs. He was a coach who always stressed technique and fundamentals and helped players reach their full potential. At training camp, his colorful, constructive, coaching critiques made him a fan favorite. His presence on the Patriots sidelines will be missed by our coaches, players and fans alike."
The Patriots will replace Scarnecchia with Dave DeGuglielmo, who has nine years of NFL experience but was not in the league in 2013. DeGuglielmo spent time with the Giants (2004-08), Dolphins (2009-11) and the Jets (2012), working exclusively with the offensive line during those stops.
DeGuglielmo is a native of Lexington, Mass., and played collegiately at Boston University (1987-90) before beginning his coaching career at the college level with stops at Boston College (1991-92), BU (1993-96), UConn (1997-98) and South Carolina (1999-2003).
He'll have a rather large set of shoes to fill trying to replace Scarnecchia, who's preparation and understanding of the game made him one of the best assistant coaches in all of football. His professionalism and manner will be sorely missed in Foxborough.