BOSTON -- The New England Patriots put all of their top assistant coaches in front of the media this week. Normally, one of the highlights of those sessions involves Ivan Fears, the longtime Patriots assistant who's always candid and never shy.
But Fears was not present for any of the media sessions this week, indicating that his coaching career with the Patriots has indeed come to an end after 25 seasons. Reports of a Fears retirement surfaced not long after the Patriots' season ended in Buffalo, with ESPN's Mike Reiss stating in January that "it should only be a matter of time" before Fears announced his retirement.
By mid-May, that formal announcement -- from Fears or from the team -- still has not come. Though Reiss did tweet this week that Fears "worked his last day a few months ago."
As for the current staff, Vinnie Sunseri will be taking over the running backs coach duties. Sunseri's been on the Patriots' staff for the past two years, spending last year working under Fears as the assistant running backs coach. He was a defensive assistant in 2020, after spending a season as a graduate assistant at Alabama under head coach Nick Saban.
But replacing Fears is a largely impossible task. Fears coached for 46 years overall -- 31 in the NFL, 15 in college -- and has been with the Patriots continuously since 1999. (He previously had a two-year stint as a wide receivers coach in 1991 and 1992.) Fears coached the wide receivers when Tom Brady and Bill Belichick won their first Super Bowl in 2001, before switching to running backs coach in 2002 and holding that title for 20 years and five more championships.
Certainly, a career like that warrants a special sort of acknowledgment from the Patriots. To date, that formal announcement and celebration has yet to take place.
Last year, Ernie Adams -- Belichick's longtime right-hand man -- retired after the draft and gave a rare press conference over Zoom, following a round of praise from Belichick. At some point this spring, a similar scenario surely ought to play out for Fears.
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