Perry: Scarnecchia shares first order of business for Adrian Klemm originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
PHOENIX -- Adrian Klemm appears to have his work cut out for him.
He's been hired by the Patriots to coach their offensive line after what was a rough season for all facets of their offense. They were 21st in yards per carry last season. They were 22nd in the NFL in rushing success rate. They allowed 41 sacks, which placed them just inside the top half of the league (15th), and they were 13th in sack yardage lost. They were 15th in pass-blocking efficiency, per Pro Football Focus, after a top-five season in that category in 2021.
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So what's the first order of business for him as he gets re-adjusted to the Foxboro area -- he was Bill Belichick's first-ever Patriots draft pick in 2000 -- and prepares to work with new players and coaches? We reached out to former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to find out.
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"I think it would be the same as it is for the whole staff this time of year," Scarnecchia said. "Go back over the game tapes, look at the players, decide who you like, decide what your needs are, rank the players. If you have 13 offensive linemen, rank 'em from one to 13. 'These are guys we really like, these are guys we can work with and develop. These are guys we can maybe move on from.' Get to know the personnel, what do they look like when they play, how do they play? Who can we rely on? Are they all on board? All those things."
Scarnecchia has some relatively recent experience when it comes to re-joining the Patriots. He retired prior to the 2014 season and returned in 2016. Once he made that decision, he made sure to reach out to his pupils.
"It's important to evaluate guys on tape, but ultimately you have to get to know the guys," he said. "Last time I came back, I got on the phone and called every one of them, told them how much I was looking forward to being their coach and working with them... Then you start the process and you go."
Scarnecchia got a chance to watch Klemm coach in person during a scouting trip back when Klemm was coaching the linemen at UCLA. He was impressed, and he doesn't feel as though Klemm's recent experience in the college game -- coaching college concepts that can sometimes look very different from what's going on at the pro level -- will be a major obstacle in New England.
"No. You've gotta run block. You've gotta pass block," he said. "The technique you want to teach that goes along with that, that's what you're going to do. I've seen Adrian coach before. Very demanding with his players. Very tough-minded with them. I saw him at UCLA and was very impressed. He's an ABC guy: Step with this foot; get a hat there; get our hands there.
"I don't think much changes from college to pro. Are the offenses different? In some respects yes and in some respects no. Blocking's blocking... How do you teach the double-teams and individual blocks? In pass-protection, are you going to slide? Are you going to dual (protect)? That's what you're going to do... You may say, you're going to run gap and outside zone, inside zone, power. If there's a fullback, you run lead. And you put it all together however you want."
Scarnecchia acknowledged that it might not be easy for players to deal with changing voices at the front of the offensive line room in New England. Since his final season with the team in 2019, there have been four different line coaches. Klemm will be the fifth.
"Is it hard on players? I think players are the most adaptable guys in the world," Scarnecchia said. "Would it be easier with the same voice talking in their ear every year? Yeah. As long as they're winning. If they're not then they probably would be looking for a change. I think players are very adaptable.
"When you get up in front of those guys, you gotta sell them on, 'This is how we're going to practice, this is the tempo we're going to use, this is the grading system -- we're going to grade you on assignment, technique, effort -- this is how we're gonna double-team.' When you do that, you're selling the system and you're selling the system the way you want it to be run. You need to get up there in front of them and show that you're detailed and want things done a certain way. All players want to do is succeed so if you can convince them this is what we need to do to have success, they'll do what it is you're wanting them to do."
Scarnecchia noted that it could be a while before Klemm is talking about schemes and techniques with players, even if he reaches out to them in the near future. It's a hard position to coach from afar. Practice tapes Klemm has -- or that the Patriots have that Klemm likes -- could be used to expedite the onboarding process once players are back in the building. But before that happens, there has to be clarity on the type of offense that'll be run.
With Bill O'Brien in as the offensive coordinator, there may be direction there that was lacking in some way headed into last season.
"Is it going to be the old stuff," Scarnecchia said, "or the new stuff or something in between? I have no idea... What's the vision look like to everybody as far as the staff? Do we want to be 50-50 with our run and pass splits, or we're more heavily toward the pass game? It's whatever you decide on. Then you go ahead and sell the players on it."
Perry's Mailbag: How will Patriots address their offensive line issues?
There will be tweaks, certainly, but there are some issues that plagued the Patriots last season -- like penalties -- that would be viewed as below the standard no matter who was leading the charge for the offensive line.
"There's certain things that aren't acceptable," Scarnecchia said. "I'm not even looking at last year. The last year I coached, penalties are never acceptable. They're not. They're a result of poor judgment and a lot of times lousy technique. I've always told [players] that. Bad decisions, poor judgment, lousy technique.
"Delays? That's on the coaches. It is. (Bill) Parcells used to say all the time, 'Men, you're responsible for every penalty you got but one. That's delay of game. That's on the coaches.' That's the truth. You want to sell them on the whole picture. No penalties. Balance between your run and pass games. Protecting the quarterback. All the things philosophically you believe in, that's what you're putting on the players.
"They really want to know, 'What do you want and how do you want it done?' They'll be compliant, and I think it's that way across the league. That's how these guys are. They want to play good because they want to perform so that they can stay in the league."
Klemm gets it. He was in their shoes once. Now it's up to him to make the sales pitch to Patriots linemen on the techniques that will get them to buy in and improve upon the way they played in 2022.