One day after New England Patriots Coach Ron Meyer fired his defensive coordinator, saying he (Meyer) was "never opposed to decisive action," Meyer himself was fired and the defensive coordinator rehired.
The Patriots immediately named Raymond Berry, the Hall of Fame receiver who played for many years with the Baltimore Colts, as their new head coach.
"We need a stable situation here," said Patrick Sullivan, general manager of the 5-3 Patriots. "There are many issues that came up that led us to the conclusion that we had no alternative."
One of those issues was Meyer's decision, made without consulting Sullivan, to fire defensive coordinator Rod Rust. He did that Wednesday morning, citing philosophical differences over defensive strategy, then informed Sullivan, who was at the NFL meetings in New Orleans.
Sullivan rushed home and met with Meyer. Berry, an assistant coach with the Patriots from 1978 through 1981, was offered the job late Wednesday afternoon and Meyer was informed by Sullivan this morning.
"He said, 'Ron, we've come to a decision.' I said, 'You've got to be kidding me,' " said Meyer, who has had differences with some of his players the past three years.
"I made the move that I felt would make us a better football team and I would do it today," said Meyer, who will be paid an estimated $300,000 for the 18 months left on his four-year contract.
He is the second NFL head coach to be fired this season. Sam Rutigliano, a former New England assistant, lost his job with Cleveland Monday.
Meyer, whose 18-15 record with the Patriots represents the best winning percentage of any coach in the team's history, said he didn't ask for a reason and was given none. Sullivan indicated the decision to fire Rust was a factor.
Rust was highly praised by his players before and after his firing.
"One of the first things I wanted to do was get Rod Rust back," said Berry, a receivers coach for New England in 1978-81 who had been out of football since then. He has been working as a sales manager for a Tennessee company, although living in Medfield, Mass., southwest of Boston.
After learning of her husband's rehiring, Rust's wife, Jean, said, "What's best of all, he's going to have a new boss."
Berry, 51, also worked as an assistant for Dallas, Detroit and Cleveland. He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after an outstanding 13-year career as a receiver with the Colts.
Berry was given a multiyear contract by the Patriots, although neither length nor salary was disclosed.
"This is not an ideal situation," said Berry, who added that he didn't plan any changes for Sunday's game here with the New York Jets.
The Patriots are three games behind Miami and a game behind the Jets in the AFC East.
"I really oppose disruptions in the middle of the season of any variety," Sullivan said.
Then why did he fire Meyer?
"Because I oppose disruptions," said Sullivan, who voiced his support for Rust. "There are many, many issues which went into this. It was not a snap judgment. I would prefer not to get into this now. I think it would be counter-productive to what we want to do."
Sullivan said Meyer's contract gave him the right to hire and fire coaches, but he added that he should have been consulted before Meyer fired Rust.
Three weeks ago, Sullivan met with players who complained about Meyer, who has had an uneasy relationship with many veterans since coming here after six years at SMU.
"Ron was upset about that meeting . . . ," said Sullivan.
Meyer and Sullivan denied that the decision to fire Rust was an attempt by Meyer to assert the power that he felt Sullivan undermined by meeting with the players.
Meyer said he hoped to coach again, and added, "I'm unemployed right now. Yesterday, I was a Reagan fan. Today, I'm a Mondale fan."