Chuck Fairbanks Dies: Former Patriots Coach Passes Away At 79

Chuck Fairbanks, the former New England Patriots coach who led the team to two playoff berths in the 1970s, has died. Fairbanks passed away on Tuesday after a battle with brain cancer. He was 79.

Chuck Fairbanks proved an inspired appointment for the Patriots. Prior to his arrival in New England in 1973, the team was 3-11. In the three seasons before his departure in 1978, the franchise went 11-3, 9-5, and 11-5. During his time at Foxboro Stadium, he drafted top-drawer players such as linebacker Steve Nelson, tight end Russ Francis, offensive lineman John Hannah, and cornerback Mike Haynes.

Speaking last September about Fairbanks’ influence at the franchise, current Patriots coach Bill Belichick said:

“Chuck has been a good friend for a long time and he’s meant a lot to this organization. At the time he came here, he did a great job turning the Patriots around and making them into one of the top teams in the AFC.”

Belichick also recalled how Fairbanks was ahead of his time in the 1970s NFL:

“[He introduced] things that stood the test of time and have been a big principle of this league for many, many years, [with] the disciples and people with him – 3-4 defense, the way he organized the draft, personnel meetings.”

Fairbanks’ coaching career began at the Oklahoma Sooners, from 1967-72. He arrived at Oklahoma as part of Jim Mackenzie’s staff in 1966, and was appointed head coach a year later when Mackenzie died from a heart attack.

He was a driving force in implementing the wishbone offense at Oklahoma, a formation that turned the team into an offensive force to be reckoned with. In his first year, Fairbanks took The Sooners to a 10-1 finish, beating Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.