The Houston Texans announced the firing of head coach Lovie Smith on Sunday, just hours after he told the media he expected to retain the role for next season.
Smith was promoted in February after spending one season as the Texans' associate head coach and defensive coordinator.
In a rebuilding season following the trade of franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Texans appeared destined all season for the worst record in the league and the top overall pick in the coming NFL Draft.
They produced a stirring late comeback in Sunday's 32-31 win against the Indianapolis Colts to finish the campaign 3-13-1, handing the first pick in the draft to the Chicago Bears (3-14) in the process.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Smith said it is ridiculous to propose intentionally losing a game at this level.
"This is an option that I had," he said. "So you say, 'hey guys ... all that you've been working for your life, you play to win, forget that. Lose the game on purpose.
"That will be a hard one to get by. They won't expect me to say that. I didn't. What we work on each week, our game plan, has been to win the game. It's kind of simple as that. That's what we follow through on the day.
"It's pretty simple – we play to win the game. It's kind of simple as that."
When asked about if he expected to return for a second season at the helm, he said: "Do I expect to be back? Yes, I expect to be back."
That notion was shot down hours later, with Texans general manager Nick Caserio announcing he personally had made the decision to fire Smith, and would instead hire a new head coach for the third time during his three years in charge, and the fourth consecutive year overall with a new head coach for the franchise.
The statement read: "On behalf of the entire organisation, I would like to thank Lovie Smith for everything he has contributed to our team over the last two seasons as a coach and leader.
"I'm constantly evaluating our football operation and believe this is the best decision for us at this time. It is my responsibility to build a comprehensive and competitive program that can sustain success over a long period of time.
"We aren't there right now. However, with the support of the McNair family and the resources available to us, I'm confident in the direction of the program moving forward."