BOSTON -- Is John Mackovic, coach and athletic director at Illinois, Sam Jankovich's man?
NFL sources and others close to Jankovich say Mackovic, 47, is Jankovich's first choice to succeed Rod Rust as coach of the Patriots.
Mackovic, who is preparing Illinois for the Hall of Fame Bowl Jan. 1, has been a coach the past 25 years and has had tours of duty in the NFL with Dallas and Kansas City.
He coached the Chiefs into the playoffs in 1986, only to be fired soon after when several players used their influence with management.
"John is still bitter about his experience in Kansas City," said a friend who holds a top job in the NFL. "That's not to say he won't take the job if it's a good deal, but I think it will have to be a great deal."
Jankovich, who took over as CEO of the Patriots a week ago, said he would not make a decision on a possible coaching change until the season is finished Sunday.
He reportedly has promised Rust a quick decision, and people who know Jankovich believe he will fire Rust and move to lure Mackovic.
A no-nonsense type who likes to throw the ball, Mackovic was an assistant at Army, San Jose State, Arizona and Purdue before becoming the head man at Wake Forest, his alma mater. After a successful stint there, he became an assistant for two seasons with the Cowboys.Some thought he would be the successor to Tom Landry in Dallas,before he moved to Kansas City in 1983