Former Patriots coach Chuck Fairbanks dies


Chuck Fairbanks, a successful but volatile coach who led the Patriots for six seasons in the 1970s, has died.

The Patriots announced on Tuesday that Fairbanks died of brain cancer.

In January of 1973, Fairbanks quit as head coach at Oklahoma — where he had just led the Sooners to a win in the Sugar Bowl — to become the head coach of the Patriots. Fairbanks left behind him at Oklahoma a scandal related to altering players’ transcripts, and the Sooners went on NCAA probation for two years. That would not be the last time Fairbanks left a job in a controversial manner.

With the Patriots, he built a lousy team into a winner, but in December of 1978, with the Patriots 11-4 and in first place in the AFC East, Fairbanks abruptly decided to leave to become the head coach at Colorado. A messy battle with then-Patriots owner Billy Sullivan ensued, and Colorado boosters ended up buying Fairbanks out of his Patriots contract.

Fairbanks was unsuccessful at Colorado, going just 7-26, and he quit after three seasons to become head coach of the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League. After one season there, Fairbanks was done as a coach.

Although he’s mostly remembered in the NFL for the circumstances of his departure from the Patriots, there was a time when Fairbanks was considered one of the smartest and most innovative coaches in football. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in September that Fairbanks had been a friend and a mentor.

Chuck has been a good friend for a long time and he’s meant a lot to this organization,” Belichick said. “Really, at the time he came here, he did a great job in turning the Patriots around, making them into one of the top teams in the AFC. Also, some of the things he brought to the Patriots and the league in the ‘70s were things that stood the test of time and have been a big principle of this league for many, many years and the disciples and the people that were with him, such as the 3-4 defense, the way he organized the draft, personnel meetings, things like that and some of the great coaches that were here under Chuck.”

Chuck Fairbanks was 79.

14 responses to “Former Patriots coach Chuck Fairbanks dies

  1. Fairbanks did a great job of turning the Patriots around. Many people became fans of the Pats for life.You had to be here to believe the amazing job Fairbanks did. That said, things got really bad when he screwed the Sullivans when he left. If it wasn’t for the Sullivan family there would never have been a team here at that time. In the 60’s and 70’s.

  2. I hated this guy for how he left the Pats. Of course, we lost the ensuing playoff game, badly, against the Houston Oilers. It was the first ever home playoff game for the Patriots since the merger, and they were primed to win it, but his abrupt announcement just prior, had an enormously deflating affect on the team. They played like zombies and lost 31-14.

    But if Bill says he was a good guy then all is forgiven. 😉

  3. and then there is more cheating. from brady and the pats.


    Wow. The guy just died but as long as its clever I guess…

  4. R.I.P Chuck.

    But for that phantom roughing-the-passer call against Hamilton, the Patriots beat the Raiders and then crush both the Steelers and Vikings to take home new Englands first title.

    Of course, the refs gave the Raiders the game…like they always did back in the 70s

  5. RIP Chuck.

    Fairbanks’ Pats had some very good years in the late 70’s, and would have won a SB in 76 if not for the infamous phantom roughing the passer call against the Raiders. I know this doesn’t compute with the uniformed who like to think the Pats were awful every single season until 2001, but it’s true.

  6. I never liked the way he left New England in the middle of the night to head to Colorado but then again the Sullivan’s were not the brightest bulbs on the owners tree so who knows what really transpired.

    As pointed out above,had it not been for the phantom call on Hamilton in Oakland,the Patriots would have won the first Super Bowl as the were clearly the best team in the NFL in 1976.

    The roughing the passer call was a much more egregious call than the one Raiders fan whine about called the Tuck Rule .

    RIP to a great football coach.

  7. ampats The Sullivans were bright enough to keep them in New England for more than 25 years. They had many offers , I would bet, to sell them to someone for a lot of money to move them out of New England, which never happened,by the way. You should thank them, instead of criticizing them. If not for them, the Pats would be some where else. Hater.

  8. Remember the Jackson fiasco where they nearly lost the team ? We should thank the Sullivan’s for selling the team to Victor Kiam( was there ever a worse owner?) 1990-1992 (the Golden Years 2-14,1-15) who then dumped the team onto the carpetbagger James Orthwein?

    I wasn’t criticizing but pointing out that they were not the shrewdest businessmen.

    And if not for Robert Kraft,the Pats would be somewhere else (St. Louis),

  9. Always sad to hear about someone dying early because of disease. I hope Fairbanks gets his due for his contributions to the NFL, despite the way he left NE. The Sullivans were a circus at the the time, and wouldn’t let him make the personnel decisions to keep some of the outstanding players he drafted. Fairbanks gets some blame too, but hard to put it all on him. One of his greatest contributions was bringing the 2-gap, 3-4 defense to the NFL from Oklahoma. Although he didn’t invent it, it’s still used today, and it spawned a coaching tree that incudes BBelichick, BParcells and NSaban, that have won a lot of championships. RIP

  10. Fairbanks moving from Oklahoma to coach the Patriots was actually one of the reasons I became a Patriots fan as a kid. He had some teams that seemed so close to breaking through.

    Losing Jack Pardee & Chuck Fairbanks so close together is a real blow.

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