The Patriots family yesterday lost the man who engineered their first significant run of success.

Chuck Fairbanks, the Pats head coach from 1973-78, died in Arizona after battling brain cancer. He was 79.

Fairbanks was the architect of the Patriots’ best teams in their early days in Foxboro, drafting some historic talent as the general manager and leading them to a pair of playoff appearances as coach. His first draft pick was Hall of Famer John Hannah, and he also selected Hall of Famer Mike Haynes, Patriots Hall of Famers Sam Cunningham, Steve Nelson, Steve Grogan and Stanley Morgan, along with stalwarts Darryl Stingley, Tim Fox, Ray Hamilton, Russ Francis, Pete Brock, Raymond Clayborn and Mosi Tatupu.

So, when Patriots owner Robert Kraft referred to Fairbanks as “the Bill Parcells before Bill Parcells,” he wasn’t lying.

“As a Patriots season ticket-holder, I remember the excitement that was generated by the hiring of Chuck Fairbanks from the University of Oklahoma in 1973,” Kraft said in a statement. “Coach Fairbanks gave the Patriots instant credibility. For Patriots fans of that era, Fairbanks was the Bill Parcells before Bill Parcells. Meaning, he did for the Patriots in the ’70s what Bill Parcells did for the team in the ’90s.

“He delivered the franchise’s first 11-win season in 1976 and earned a home playoff game after winning the division in 1978. It was the first time in franchise history that we hosted a playoff game. He introduced the 3-4 defense to the NFL during his Patriots tenure, which remains a part of his NFL legacy. It is a sad day for a generation of Patriots fans who enjoyed his era of coaching. My thoughts and prayers are with the Fairbanks family and all who mourn his loss.”