(Reuters) - The Jacksonville Jaguars fired longtime coach Jack Del Rio on Tuesday, saying the struggling team which will miss the National Football League (NFL) playoffs for a fourth consecutive season deserves better.
Del Rio, who was 11 games into his ninth NFL season with the Jaguars, last led the team to the playoffs after going 11-5 during the 2007 campaign. His team was eliminated from playoff contention this year after Sunday's loss dropped them to 3-8.
"I told Jack that I appreciated the nine years that he served the team, but I told Jack that we deserved better," Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, who also reached a deal to sell the team on Tuesday, told a news conference. "We've been very average over the last couple of years."
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will serve as the interim head coach for Jacksonville's remaining five games of the 2011 NFL season.
Del Rio, 48, was one of four current NFL head coaches who had been with their current team for more than eight seasons, joining New England's Bill Belichick, Philadelphia's Andy Reid and Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis.
He finishes his tenure in Jacksonville with a 68-71 record in the regular season and 1-2 in the playoffs.
"It's a sad day," Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew told reporters. "He's the guy that gave me my shot to play in this league."
Jones-Drew, a two-time Pro Bowler who was Jacksonville's second round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, blamed a lack of execution by the team as a major reason for this season's poor record and Del Rio's departure.
"A lot of guys were upset when they heard about it this morning," said Jones-Drew. "He's a players' coach.
"There was no lack of effort out there when we were playing, just a lack of execution."
Del Rio's firing was announced shortly before Weaver said he reached an agreement to sell the Jaguars to Pakistani-born businessman Shahid Khan.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)