Patriots reportedly losing Ivan Fears to retirement could hurt running game
The 2021 New England Patriots ended up crashing and burning, and the most recent offseason news continues to hurt them.
First came the report about Bill Belichick handing over the defense to his son, Steve, and linebackers coach Jerod Mayo for a portion of the season, only to see the unit suffer greatly. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is expected to leave for the head coaching job with the Las Vegas Raiders. The team only has a shade above $7 million in cap space with free agency just over a month away.
The latest? Longtime running backs coach Ivan Fears is expected to retire, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, which will leave another void on Belichick’s esteemed coaching staff. Fears has been with the franchise in his current role since 2002 (he was the wide receivers coach from 1999-2001 as well), but the 67-year-old is close to calling it a career.
He’s played an integral role in elevating lesser talents and developing younger players at the position, which has helped this rushing attack thrive for more than two decades.
Ivan Fears leaving the Patriots is going to hurt the coaching staff.
Since 2002, the Patriots have had 12 different leading rushers, which speaks to the work Fears has done as a coach. Let’s take a look at the list to put it in perspective:
- 2002: Antowain Smith
- 2003: Antowain Smith
- 2004: Corey Dillon
- 2005: Corey Dillon
- 2006: Corey Dillon
- 2007: Laurence Maroney
- 2008: Sammy Morris
- 2009: Laurence Maroney
- 2010: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
- 2011: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
- 2012: Stevan Ridley
- 2013: Stevan Ridley
- 2014: Jonas Gray
- 2015: LeGarrette Blount
- 2016: LeGarrette Blount
- 2017: Dion Lewis
- 2018: Sony Michel
- 2019: Sony Michel
- 2020: Damien Harris
- 2021: Damien Harris
Don’t forget about the impacts of various others, such as James White, who’s been a stable presence since 2015, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, Rhamondre Stevenson, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, and others who played key roles in the typical “by committee” system.
Fears’ influence, as of late, has greatly expedited the development of Harris and Stevenson, both of whom represent the future of the running game. His candor with the media — the last few years he’s expressed his criticisms and frustrations with these backs — is another aspect of his personality that will be greatly missed since we rarely get noteworthy sound bites from anyone employed by Belichick.
It’s especially troubling for Jones, however, that he’s losing two stable Belichick confidants in McDaniels and Fears, who have been prominent figures in the dynasty. Rarely are we opposed to a shift, particularly when it comes to a changing of the guard in this ever-changing league, but two of this magnitude might be difficult to cope with and fans should be prepared for that potential reality.