FOXBORO, Mass. -- New England Patriots chief executive Sam Jankovich fired head coach Rod Rust Friday, following the worst season in club history -- both on and off the field.
The Patriots finished 1-15, the worst record in the league, in Rust's first year as an NFL head coach. The team lost its final 14 games after several players were involved in the sexual harassment of a sports writer in their club locker room.
Rust's firing was Jankovich's first major move since joining the Patriots last month. He said he made his decision after a three-hour morning meeting with Rust.
'I felt it was in the best interest at the end of the line of this organization to make a change,' Jankovich told an afternoon news conference. 'And I felt if we didn't make a change that I would not be serving this orgnization and this community like it should be served.'
Jankovich named no possible replacements for Rust but said he would prefer someone with head coaching experience with an NFL team. He said a search would begin immediately and declined to comment on speculation about a successor.
'I'm more hung up for this community and this organization and for the NFL to hire the right person, and more important for the football players of the organization who have made the commitment here to make sure we hire the right coach to motivate them, to work with them and make sure they win,' Jankovich said.
Rust, 62, handled his firing the same way he has handled his rocky rookie year with the Patriots -- in a calm, matter-of-fact tone that obscured emotion.
'I think there are a whole lot of factors that made it a very unusual year,' Rust said. 'I don't consider getting to coach a professional team a birthright. It's something you may have a chance to do and you may not. My term was a brief one, that's all.'
Rust, 62, was named the Patriots' 10th head coach last Feb. 27, replacing Raymond Berry. He was New England's defensive coordinator from 1983-87 and an NFL assistant for 14 years with four teams before becoming head coach.
A 15-year NFL coaching veteran, he served as defensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1988 and Pittsburgh Steelers in 1989.
Rust began coaching in the NFL in 1976 as a linebackers' coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. Previously, he coached 13 years at the college level, including head coach at North Texas State for five years. He moved to the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes for three seasons as defensive coordinator, including one season when the team won a Grey Cup title.
Rust joined the Patriots after a 5-11 1989 campaign under Berry, who coach New England through five seasons. Berry was head coach and Rust his defensive coordinator when the Patriots played in their only Super Bowl, losing to the Chicago Bears after the 1985 season.
The Patriots stood at 1-1 after winning their second game against Indianapolis last season, but did not win again as they matched the league record for losses and consecutive losses in a season.
Boston Herald sports writer Lisa Olson alleged several nude players approached her and made lewd suggestions while she conducted an interview in the locker room Sept. 17.
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue fined three players and the team a total of $72,500, calling the incident 'distasteful' and 'damaging to the league.'
Rust had no direct involvement in the scandal, but was ineffective in rallying his team out of its worst slump in history.