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Recent exits leave multiple openings on Pats' coaching staff

FILE- In this Aug. 29, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia gives instructions on the sideline during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants in Foxborough, Mass. Tom Brady's future remains priority No. 1 for the Patriots this offseason. But coach Bill Belichick suddenly also has several key positions to fill on his coaching staff. A major hole was created this week when Scarnecchia announced his retirement after 36 seasons in the NFL.  (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
FILE- In this Aug. 29, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia gives instructions on the sideline during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants in Foxborough, Mass. Tom Brady's future remains priority No. 1 for the Patriots this offseason. But coach Bill Belichick suddenly also has several key positions to fill on his coaching staff. A major hole was created this week when Scarnecchia announced his retirement after 36 seasons in the NFL. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Where quarterback Tom Brady plays football next season remains the top question surrounding the New England Patriots this offseason.

What was already a busy winter for coach Bill Belichick on the player personnel front will now include filling multiple vacancies on his coaching staff .

On Tuesday, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia announced his retirement after 36 seasons in the NFL. It included 34 seasons with the Patriots during three different stints (1982-88, 1991-2013, 2016-19).

Special teams coach Joe Judge left to become the New York Giants head coach this month. Judge has since hired former New England defensive line coach Bret Bielema to join his staff as a senior assistant working primarily with the linebackers.

While the losses of Judge and Bielema create important openings for Belichick, the retirement of Scarnecchia is a bigger blow for the Patriots, whose offensive line improve mightily under the 71-year-old's tutelage the past four seasons.

Scarnecchia was the longest-tenured NFL coach in 2019 and owns the most coaching seasons in Patriots history, sharing in five of their six Super Bowl wins. The last NFL coach with at least 30 seasons on one team was Dick Hoak, who spent an NFL-record 35 seasons as an assistant with Pittsburgh.

Scarnecchia initially called it quits after the 2013 seasons, but was coaxed back in 2016 by Belichick to help fortify an offensive line. It featured three starters — David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney — with a combined two years of NFL experience.

Brady was sacked 38 times in 2015, the third-most times in his career. The following season, after Scarnecchia's return, Brady was sacked a career-low 15 times. And despite dealing with multiple injuries in 2019, the Patriots offensive line was called for just 12 offensive holding penalties, the third-fewest in the NFL.

“It was a privilege to coach with Dante for so long,” said Belichick in a statement. “I knew that long before his initial retirement and throughout a second act of continued excellence. Dante is among the very best assistant coaches ever.”

Belichick will have his pick of candidates for the jobs. But there could be at least two current coaches on his staff that will be in the mix to replace Scarnecchia and Judge.

Carmen Bricillo completed his first season with the Patriots as an offensive assistant in 2019, working closely with Scarnecchia. While it is the only season he's coached in the NFL, he previously spent the past nine years in charge of the offensive line at Youngstown State.

Cameron Achord, who has spent the past two seasons as a special teams assistant, is a candidate to replace Judge.

The Patriots are eligible to begin their offseason workout program on April 20.

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