Ivan Fears, a 36-year coaching veteran, will enjoy his 21st season in the NFL and his 15th with the New England Patriots in 2011. He returned to New England in 1999 and since then has enjoyed eight division championships, four conference titles and three Super Bowl championships. He is in his ninth season as running backs coach, after having coached New England's wide receivers from 1999-2001 and previously from 1991-92. Coach Fears led the running backs group to a recordsetting season in 2010, ranking in the top 10 in the NFL in rushing yards per game (123.3) and rushing yards per attempt (4.3). Fears' group only fumbled twice on 454 rushing attempts, tops in the NFL. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (1,008) became the first 1,000 rusher since Corey Dillon in 2004. Newcomer Danny Woodhead set a franchise mark with 5.6 yards per carry (minumum 90 attempts), topping Don Calhoun's previous team mark of 5.59 set in 1976. The group ran for 1,973 total yards, averaged better than four yards per carry for the fourth consecutive season and was second in the NFL with 19 rushing touchdowns as part of an attack that finished ninth in the NFL in rushing and eighth in total offense. Despite starting four different players at the position, the Patriots running game still produced 1,921 yards with 19 rushing touchdowns in 2009 to help the Patriots finish with the third ranked offense and place sixth in the NFL in points scored. For the third consecutive season, the Patriots rushing attack averaged over 4 yards per carry. The Patriots had not achieved that level of consistency at the running back position for the last quarter century. In 2008, the Patriots had their best rushing season in more than 20 years, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and totaling 2,278 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. Fears' running backs also helped to consistently sustain drives, as the Patriots led the league in rushing first downs (145) and in drives of 10 plays or longer (38). Sammy Morris set a career high with 727 rushing yards, and Kevin Faulk accounted for 993 total yards from scrimmage. Fears has helped the Patriots finish in the top 10 in offense six times in the last seven seasons: 2010 (8), 2009 (3), 2008 (5), 2007 (1), 2005 (7) and 2004 (7). In 2007, the Patriots averaged 4.1 yards per rush in the regular season, posting the team's highest average rushing gain in 22 seasons, and the Patriots' 17 rushing touchdowns were the second highest total for the team in the last 20 years. In 2006, Fears helped coach a rushing attack that averaged 123.1 yards per game, including a 236-yard rushing performance at Cincinnati (10/1). Corey Dillon became the NFL's active career rushing leader and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground. The 2005 season saw healthy production from the running backs despite injuries that forced the Patriots to start four different players at the position. Six different running backs combined to rush for 1,388 yards on 395 carries in 2005. Additionally, Dillon tied his then career high with 12 rushing touchdowns despite missing four games due to injury. In 2004, the Patriots enjoyed one of the finest rushing seasons in franchise history as the team averaged 4.07 yards per carry, the most since 1985 (4.13-yard avg.). The Patriots ran for more than 200 yards in a game on three occasions, including a 210-yard performance in the divisional playoffs. Additionally, the team's 225 rushing yards against Cleveland (12/5) were the most in any game since 1993. Dillon set the team's single-season rushing record with 1,635 yards and led the NFL with an average of 109.0 yards per game in which he appeared. The 2003 season saw the Patriots exceed the 100-yard rushing plateau as a team in eight of 16 regular-season games, an improvement on their five games exceeding the century mark in 2002. The Patriots also passed the 100-yard mark in two of three postseason contests, including a 127- yard output in their victory in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Fears took on running backs duties in 2002, and in his first season the position produced 1,508 yards rushing – the second highest total by the Patriots since 1996. As receivers coach in 2001, Fears helped both Troy Brown and David Patten produce career years. Brown established a franchise record with 101 receptions for a career-high 1,199 yards and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. It was Brown's first 1,000-yard season. Patten, who entered the season with just 71 career receptions in four seasons, claimed the starting role opposite Brown and was credited with 51 receptions for 749 yards and four touchdowns. Fears originally joined the professional coaching ranks as the receivers coach on Dick MacPherson's staff with the Patriots in 1991. After two seasons in New England, he accepted a position with the Bears in Chicago, where he coached the receivers for six seasons (1993-98) before returning to New England in 1999. In 1991, his receiving corps featured Irving Fryar, Greg McMurtry and Michael Timpson. That year, Fryar turned in the first 1,000-yard season of his career, finishing with 1,014 yards on 68 receptions (14.9 avg.). In 1993, he joined the Chicago Bears and inherited the team's first-round selection, Curtis Conway. In 1994, the Bears added Jeff Graham, a reserve receiver from the Steelers, and Fears helped develop the two into one of the premier receiving tandems in the league over a two-year span. In his first year with the Bears, Graham started 15 games and led the team with 68 receptions for 944 yards. In 1995, Conway and Graham became the first receiving tandem in franchise history to each record over 1,000 yards receiving in a single season. In 1996, Conway produced a career-high 81 receptions for 1,049 yards and became the first Bear in franchise history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Fears began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at William & Mary in 1976. In 1977, he drew his first positional responsibilities coaching receivers. His next two seasons (1978-79), he coached quarterbacks before accepting the role as receivers coach at Syracuse in 1980, a position he held for the next 10 seasons.
A three-year letterman as a running back at William & Mary (1973-75), his playing career was cut short after undergoing three knee operations during his collegiate career.
Ivan Fears was born Nov. 15, 1954 in Portsmouth, Va. He grew up in Suffolk, Va., where he starred at John Yates High and was twice named the school's Outstanding Player of the Year. He also earned all-state honors as a senior. Ivan and his wife, Beverly, have three children, Joshua, Aaron and Kimberly.
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