The Cleveland Browns fired head coach Rob Chudzinski on Sunday and will begin searching for the eighth coach in 16 years.
On Monday, Chudzinski met with the team and didn't hide his emotions, according to players.
"I was shocked and disappointed to hear the news that I was fired. I am a Cleveland Brown to the core, and always will be," he said in a statement issued through the team. "It was an honor to lead our players and coaches, and I appreciate their dedication and sacrifice. I was more excited than ever for this team, as I know we were building a great foundation for future success. While clearly I would have liked to see the long-term vision through to the end, I am very grateful to Jimmy Haslam and the Haslam family for letting me live my dream."
Haslam also met with players before they cleared out their lockers at the Berea, Ohio, facility and said he wanted to see more improvement.
"We appreciate Chud's passion for the Browns, and we have great respect for him both personally and professionally," the team said in a statement late Sunday. "We needed to see progress with this football team. We needed to see development and improvement as the season evolved and, unfortunately, we took a concerning step backward in the second half of the year.
"Our fans deserve to see a consistently competitive team. We have high standards, and there's an urgency for success. When we believed we were not positioned to achieve significant progress in 2014, we knew we had to admit that a change was needed, and move forward.
"Browns fans are the most loyal and passionate supporters in the NFL. We're fully committed to bringing them the winning football team they deserve."
Multiple outlets reported Chudzinski was in dire straits before FOX's Jay Glazer said Sunday night that the coach demanded a Monday meeting with team decision-makers be moved up to Sunday night. Ninety minutes later, the team had made the move official.
Chudzinski was surprised when asked if he heard reports that he would be fired.
"No. We haven't had any of those type of discussions. The next week we'll look and start reviewing the season and looking at every aspect of the program and doing those evaluations," he said.
The Browns issued a statement in the middle of the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Our focus is on the game today. We will not discuss any evaluation of the season until this upcoming week," the statement read.
Chudzinski, who was hired last January to replace fired Pat Shurmur, finished with a 4-12 record in his one season with the Browns, including a 20-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. He wouldn't say whether he felt he deserved another chance in Cleveland.
The Browns had an unsettled situation at quarterback throughout the season. Three different players started games at quarterback for the Browns: Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell.
Chudzinski was under fire for a "lack of decisiveness and players not being held accountable," according to NFL Network.
Players voiced near unanimous support for their coach after Sunday's game. Center Alex Mack said "I think he is going to stay a while. There is something to be said about continuity."
But the Browns, who introduced the regime of general manager Mike Lombardi, team president Joe Banner and owner Jimmy Haslam 10 months ago in championing the enthusiasm of home-grown Chudzinski, a Toledo native who starred at St. John's Jesuit High School, pulled the plug after one season with losses in 10 of the last 11 games.
"Coach never quits. This week, he treated everything like a regular week. We weren't getting out early and just going home," Campbell said before news of the firing came Sunday night. "Instead, we were still preparing ourselves as if we were playing beyond today. I give a lot of credit to his ability to not let the outside world destroy what he's trying to build."