" Listening to Dante Scarnecchia last night during The Hall’s Speaker Series was like enjoying an evening with your favorite uncle.
The recently retired Patriots offensive line coach, who spent 30 years with the organization, was warm, engaging, funny and informative.
Fans were drawn to his every word during his remarks and later Q&A session, in this, the first time a Patriots coach had taken part in the event.
Scarnecchia did what would have been considered unthinkable pre-retirement — he talked about injuries. He described Sebastian Vollmer’s season-ending injury as a dislocated ankle, saying the right tackle suffered one of the “toughest injuries” he’d witnessed as a coach. Vollmer’s injury was listed by the team as a broken leg.
Scarnecchia offered an interesting change from the norm. In that regard, he explained the need for having one voice — Bill Belichick’s — and one message in the locker room.
“I think Bill does a good job educating the players about how to respond to certain questions,’’ Scarnecchia said. “Clearly, there’s so many examples where it sounds like the players were cloned by Bill . . . but his focus as a head coach is the final product. You can’t have people going in all these other directions. So he has a plan how to deal with things.
“I know you’d love to hear it, but if you heard it, we’d have to eliminate you.”
That line brought the house down, of course.
Scarnecchia told some great anecdotes during his hour-long session before signing autographs. He recalled one where former offensive lineman Matt Light played a prank on him, sabotaging his computer to the point where he couldn’t watch any tape.
“Light, he thinks he’s a comedian, but thank God we drafted Matt, and I mean that sincerely,’’ Scarnecchia said. “The very first thing Matt Light said to me after we drafted him in the second round, he says, ‘I got narcolepsy.’ I pleaded ignorance. So he said, ‘I fall asleep all the time. I fall asleep in meetings.’ I said, ‘I don’t think you’re going to fall asleep in my meetings.’
“So he always sat right in front of me. I could always tell when he was getting a little narcoleptic.”
Scarnecchia also revealed that Tom Brady’s generosity extended beyond gifts for the offensive line. It seems No. 12 spreads the wealth all around.
“I do know the last two or three years, he’s bought everyone on the team, everyone from trainers, equipment people, he just got everyone Uggs,’’ Scarnecchia said. “I got three pairs of Uggs. I’m bummed out I’m not going to get a pair this year ’cuz I love those things.”
The legendary coach, who was in the business for 44 years, also took on some tougher topics, namely the bullying scandal in Miami involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.
Scarnecchia did not want to comment on the Dolphins business, per se, but did talk about the issue in general, saying that kind of behavior in NFL locker rooms is the exception, not the rule. He called it an “extreme situation.”
Had Scarnecchia stayed on for another season, he would have just returned from watching prospects at the NFL’s scouting combine in Indianapolis. To that end, he was asked to describe what his days were like this time of year.
“(In the morning), you self-analyze things from the offense this past season, then in the afternoon watch the college guys that were at the combine and start to break them down on tape. That’s what you do for the next two months every day, all day,’’ Scarnecchia said. “I love to watch football, and study how people play, but it takes a lot out of you to do it every day. I’m going to tell you right now, there’s not a lot of yucks in that office. We don’t spend a lot of time sitting around the coffee machine, talking about Seinfeld last night.
“You sit at your desk, and chain yourself to the desk, and go as hard as you can. That’s the job.”
Asked about what he considered the Patriots top needs, Scarnecchia said it wasn’t too hard to figure out, pointing toward the defensive line, as well as linebacker.
In terms of what he always looked for in an offensive lineman, he remarked the formula wasn’t too complicated.
“You have to be smart, you have to be tough, and you have to be athletic enough,” he said. “Those are the things to me, that are the priorities when evaluating an offensive lineman and ultimately how well does he play his position.”"
The Patriots are going to miss him.