After helping Bill Belichick establish an effective run game and a smashmouth mentality throughout his career, Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears is expected to retire at some point in 2022, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss in his Sunday column.
“It should only be a matter of time before longtime Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears announces his retirement following 31 NFL seasons and 25 with the Patriots,” wrote Reiss.
Reiss also noted this exchange between Fears and New England tailback Damien Harris in the final moments of the team’s 47-17 playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills as another clue pointing towards stepping away:
Ivan Fears: “You’re a different man than you were when you walked in here, son!”— Chris Mason (@ByChrisMason) January 18, 2022
Damien Harris: “Yessir! All because of you. Thank you for everything.”
If this is it for Fears, he’ll retire as one of the most beloved Patriots assistants by his guys. pic.twitter.com/RMsqIyZ7XP
Fears began coaching in 1976 at William and Mary, the same school that he played running back for in each of the prior three seasons. The Virginia native later joined the Patriots in 1991 as the receivers coach, before returning to New England in 1999 and becoming the running backs coach in 2002.
In this role, Fears immediately excelled as the 2002 squad ran for over 1,500 yards, the franchise’s best season in six years. From power back LeGarrette Blount to the shifty Danny Woodhead, the veteran coach got the most out of a variety of styles and sizes among his backs.
Fears coached four 1,000 yard rushers during New England’s dynastic run under Bill Belichick. He played a key role in their return to a power running game in the 2018-19 playoffs, capped with six postseason touchdowns for Sony Michel and a win over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
While Belichick’s staff saw plenty of turnover during the team’s title runs, Fears’ presence marked a mainstay in Foxboro and allowed for consistency to develop in the ground game. With over three decades of coaching experience and six Super Bowl rings on his resume, Fears would step away with his fingerprints on the continued success of the franchise.
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