Not long after breaking down the film of the Patriots’ loss to the Broncos in the AFC Championship game, Bill Belichick headed to Mobile, Ala., to take in Senior Bowl practices and begin the process of catching up on the players available in the draft.
But back in Foxborough, a few members of Belichick’s coaching staff began packing up their belongings and heading out of Gillette Stadium for one final time.
In rapid succession this week came news that longtime assistants Pepper Johnson and Dante Scarnecchia, as well as tight ends coach George Godsey, were leaving. Scarnecchia, 65, retired after 30 years with the team and well over 40 as a coach. Johnson is departing to seek new opportunities.
Johnson likely wants to be a coordinator, and after being passed over for the younger Matt Patricia in 2012, he probably felt it was time to move on.
After three years in New England, Godsey is reportedly headed for Houston, where he will coach alongside Bill O’Brien, the man who coached him at Georgia Tech. A quarterback for the Yellow Jackets when O’Brien was offensive coordinator, Godsey is expected to coach the QBs for the Texans.
Upon announcing Scarnecchia’s retirement, the Patriots announced the hiring of Dave DeGuglielmo, who was raised in Lexington and was an All-New England interior lineman at Boston University.
After spending 2013 out of coaching, the 45-year-old had taken the offensive line job at Maryland this month, but backed out to work for the Patriots.
DeGuglielmo began his coaching career at Boston College and BU, then spent two years at Connecticut before moving on to South Carolina in 1999, where he worked under Lou Holtz.
He entered the NFL ranks in 2004 with the Giants as a quality control coach, and was assistant offensive line coach from 2005-08. From 2009-11, DeGuglielmo was the line coach in Miami, where Tony Sparano, his coach with the Terriers years earlier, was head coach.
Each year DeGuglielmo was in Miami, left tackle Jake Long was named to the Pro Bowl, and his lines paved the way for 1,000-yard rushers Ricky Williams (2009) and Reggie Bush (2011).
In 2012, when Sparano was offensive coordinator with the Jets, he brought DeGuglielmo to New York, but both men only lasted a season with the team.
While Scarnecchia’s replacement was named quickly, it’s not clear who will replace Johnson and Godsey.
The Patriots now have the assistant head coach title open, and with Belichick confidants Jim Schwartz and Greg Schiano both on the market, the opportunity to work with Belichick and burnish the résumé as linebackers coach (both have defensive backgrounds) and assistant head coach could be appealing to either.
The move might be especially good for Schiano, whose two-year tenure with the Buccaneers ended disastrously, from a lingering MRSA outbreak to players bristling at his hard-line tactics to a 4-12 season in which the team lost its first eight games.
The tight ends position may be filled internally. Brian Daboll, who had the nebulous title of offensive coaching assistant but was more than the usual low-level, do-everything type, could get the job. A darkhorse candidate could be Belichick’s son, Stephen, who just completed his second season as an assistant.
There has been turnover on Belichick’s staff in the past, but he is usually replacing only one, maybe two assistants.
With Scarnecchia retiring, the longest-tenured assistant on the staff is running backs coach Ivan Fears, who did a tremendous job this season working with LeGarrette Blount and getting him ready to contribute. The knock on Blount with Tampa Bay was that he struggled to pick up some of the schemes and concepts, particularly in pass protection.
Fears, like Scarnecchia, actually pre-dates Belichick’s tenure as Patriots head coach, as he came to New England in 1999.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels joined the Patriots as a personnel assistant in 2001 before moving into the coaching ranks in ’02.