BEREA, Ohio -- Rob Chudzinski said a goodbye to his players Monday morning, as he thanked them for their efforts the day after he was fired after one season as Cleveland Browns coach.
"He was definitely emotional about it," receiver Josh Gordon said of the morning meeting.
Chudzinski released a statement acknowledging he was shocked and disappointed at being fired. That's a sentiment shared around the league, and among the Browns players, who expressed disappointment, anger and dismay at the decision.
"Shocking," said rookie tight end MarQueis Gray.
"I didn't even know that was possible," Gordon said of being fired after one year as coach.
"It's a business," said receiver Josh Cooper. "They say they want stability, and hopefully we get that in the next few years."
The Browns attributed the decision to fire Chudzinski to the fact the team was worse in the final three games of the season than it was the first three. That indicated the team did not improve, owner Jimmy Haslam said.
Players merely felt bad for their coach, whom they seemed to genuinely like.
"The guys here really bought into him," Gordon said. "The guys loved him. Like anything, it's going to grow on you. You learn to appreciate what he did for us here. The guys needed structure and he brought that here."
But Chudzinski did not bring enough wins. He went 4-12, and as quarterback and running back difficulties mounted, the team struggled. Problems multiplied when the defense failed to hold leads.
The end result was that the Browns won one less game this season than they did a year ago with Pat Shurmur as coach and Brad Childress and Dick Jauron as coordinators.
"Nothing shocks me," said T.J. Ward. "I've had three coaches."
Ward was one of several veterans to be called to a private meeting with Haslam and CEO Joe Banner, where the pair explained their thinking to team leaders, including Joe Thomas, D'Qwell Jackson, Ward, Joe Haden, Alex Mack and Jason Campbell.
Sunday, Thomas and Jackson were strong in lamenting the mere notion that Chudzinski might be fired. Monday, none were in the locker room during the media interview time.
Gordon was, and he said it would be a "huge loss" if offensive coordinator Norv Turner were not retained. Banner said the new coach would have the ability to hire his staff, which does not bode well for Turner or defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
"In Cleveland, people really want to see this team do well," Gordon said. "I know the owner wants to see the team do well. The players want to win. Everybody has the right mindset. It's just so many things snowball right now in the wrong way."
It wasn't up to Gordon to decide if the decision was fair.
"It's the business of the league," Gordon said. "But I thought he would have more time than that."
"One season is one season," rookie first-round pick Barkevious Mingo said. "He didn't get the opportunities he wanted but he can't make those decisions. They were made by people above him. We can't make those decisions, obviously, and we have to roll with what happens."