The Bears weathered some rocky seasons under Lovie Smith before, and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman figured his coach would survive yet again.
So Tillman was "shocked" when the Bears relieved Smith of his duties Monday morning after nine seasons.
Asked if he ever imagined this day, Tillman said, "No, not since I've been here.
Specifically, Tillman noted that the defense has a "good system," and he's hopeful that the players and coaches, including coordinator Rod Marinelli, are retained.
"In all honestly, I would like our whole defense to come back. But I know that's not a perfect world," he said. "That's just wishful thinking.
"It'll be interesting to see how it unravels."
Like other players, Tillman was moved by Smith's final speech.
"One of the many things I can say about coach Smith is, he is a man of God and integrity, and he knows how to handle and carry himself. He'll handle every situation with class," Tillman said. "It was a sad speech. He said it was his last time being our coach that it was an honor. In actuality, the honor was our's to have him coach us, and lead us.
"It was an honor and privilege and pleasure to play for Lovie Smith. Whatever team lands him, they are - the players and administrators - are getting a steal."
Asked if hopes to have input on the next coach, Tillman said, "The guy I wanted is gone, so my opinion doesn't count.
"But I'll have to respect whomever the organization decides to choose. And I think everyone parted on good terms. It's just a business, and it's something that happened."
Ultimately, Tillman said, the players -- not just the ones on offense -- failed Smith.
"We started off 7-1," he said. "We should have won way more than 10 games, then we wouldn't be having this conversation. We, as players, let coach Smith down.
"We didn't finish strong."