Ivan Fears, a 41-year coaching veteran, is in his 27th season in the NFL and his 21st with the New England Patriots in 2017. He returned to New England in 1999 after beginning his NFL coaching career with New England in 1991. Since returning, he has enjoyed 14 division championships, seven conference titles and five Super Bowl championships. He is in his 16th season as running backs coach, after having coached New England's wide receivers from 1999-2001 and previously from 1991-92.
Under Fears' guidance since 2002, the Patriots running backs have helped the team finish in the top 10 in offense 11 times in the last 15 seasons: 2016 (4), 2015 (6), 2013 (7), 2012 (1), 2011 (2), 2010 (8), 2009 (3), 2008 (5), 2007 (1), 2005 (7) and 2004 (7). Fears has also coached four different 1,000-yard rushers from his current post: Corey Dillon (franchise record of 1,625) in 2004, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (1,008) in 2010, Stevan Ridley (1,263) in 2012 and LeGarrette Blount (1,161) in 2016.
Fears' other notable accomplishments with Patriots running backs include LeGarrette Blount setting a new franchise record with 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016 and Danny Woodhead setting a franchise mark with 5.6 yards per carry (minimum 90 attempts) in 2010, topping Don Calhoun's previous team mark of 5.59 set in 1976.
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).
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.). 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.
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 player in Bears 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.