Hard as it is to believe, the Browns have fired coach Rob Chudzinski after only one season.

At about 9:35 Sunday night, the team sent out a release announcing they fired Chudzinski after his 4-12 inaugural season, one that ended with a 20-7 loss to Pittsburgh Sunday for the club's seventh straight loss and tenth in 11 games.

The team called a press conference for 12:30 p.m. Monday and issued the following unattributed statement:

"We appreciate Chud's passion for the Browns, and we have great respect for him both personally and professionally. 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."

Chudzinski's meeting with the team got underway as of about 9 Sunday night.

Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reported that Chudzinski would have a chance to fight for his job in the meeting but that it was a longshot. He also said Chudzinski requested the session take place Sunday night after the team bussed back from Pittsburgh instead of Monday morning.

Chudzinski had three years remaining on his contract.

A leading candidate to replace Chudzinski is Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, according to multiple reports. A graduate of Canton-McKinley High and John Carroll University, McDaniels is a longtime favorite of Browns general manager Mike Lombardi and CEO Joe Banner, who's liked McDaniels since Banner was with the Eagles.

NFL Network's Albert Breer also identified Penn State's Bill O'Brien, the former Patriots offensive coordinator, as a likely top choice, but O'Brien is likely to take the Texans job after interviewing with them on Saturday.

O'Brien interviewed with the Browns last year, but opted to stay at Penn State. The Browns wanted to interview McDaniels last year, but he wasn't ready to leave New England. A source told cleveland.com last year that McDaniels would "jump at the chance'' to coach his hometown team when he was ready to return to the head coaching ranks.