The New England Patriots will soon have to look for a new running backs coach. According to a report by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, “it should only be a matter of time” before Ivan Fears officially announces his retirement from coaching.
The longest-tenured coach on New England’s staff, Fears is coming off his 25th total season with the organization.
Fears originally began his time with the Patriots as their wide receivers coach. He spent the 1991 and 1992 seasons in that position, but left for the Chicago Bears after head coach Dick MacPherson was fired. Fears rejoined the team in the 1999, however, coaching the receivers under Pete Carroll.
Despite Carroll being let go in 2000, Fears was retained by new head coach Bill Belichick. He continued working with the wide receivers until moving to the running back group in 2002. He has been responsible for the position group ever since and has worked with franchise legends such as Kevin Faulk, Corey Dillon and James White.
After a total of 31 seasons as an NFL assistant coach, however, the end seems to be on the horizon for the 67-year-old. He said so himself during last year’s offseason workouts.
“I’ll let my body determine that one,” Fears said about his future. “The signs are coming quickly. I ain’t no way in the world moving like I used to. Father Time is coming fast. He’s on my back pretty damn good.”
Fears’ coaching career started back in 1976, when he served as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, William & Mary. He later also coached wide receivers and quarterbacks, before joining Syracuse in 1980. After a decade as the Orange’s wideouts coach, he moved to the NFL level when the Patriots first brought him in.
Over the next three decades, Fears became one of a handful of coaches to be a part of all six of New England’s Super Bowl wins. In fact only three people — Belichick, Tom Brady and former San Francisco and Denver executive Neal Dahlen — own more championship rings than he does.
Fears’ résumé speaks for itself, and he will leave some big shoes to fill.
Who will ultimately try to fill them remains to be seen, but all signs point towards Vinnie Sunseri. A former defensive back, Sunseri joined the Patriots’ staff as a defensive assistant in 2020. The following year, however, he moved to coaching running backs as Fears’ assistant.
Other potential candidates to fill the job or join Sunseri in an assisting role are former New England running back Kevin Faulk or current wide receivers/kick returners coach Troy Brown.