The firing came just over a month after the Ticats wrapped up a disappointing 6-12 season.
"After a thorough evaluation of our organization and our goals moving forward, we have determined that a change in direction is needed," team president Scott Mitchell said in a release. "We want to thank coach Cortez for his contributions to the Tiger-Cats and wish him well in his future endeavours.
"We will immediately begin the search for our new general manager and head coach."
Cortez said he was surprised by the news, but seemed to be taking his dismissal well when he talked to reporters Tuesday.
"That's the way things go," he said. "We didn't win enough games, and ultimately that's what you're judged on."
When asked if he would have done anything differently over his tenure in Hamilton, he relied dryly: "I would have won more games."
"I think we had a good plan of how we did things," he added. "It was pretty much based on places I'd been in the past and how we'd done things successfully in the past, so I don't do a lot of second-guessing. Once you make a decision you move forward."
Cortez said he would like to return to coaching next year, possibly as an offensive co-ordinator. He said he hasn't ruled out a return to the CFL's head coaching ranks, but noted that as of right now job vacancies are hard to come by.
"I know obviously there's going to be a job in Ottawa in a year or two, but as of right now there's no jobs out there," he said.
The Ticats also announced that Bob O'Billovich, the team's vice-president of football operations, has been offered a position within the organization as a consultant to the president and the football operations staff.
"Bob has done a very good job of bringing competitive football back to Hamilton and we look forward to working with him for many years to come," said Mitchell.
O'Billovich served as vice-president of football operations this year after spending four seasons as general manager.
Cortez, who also handled offensive co-ordinator duties, was named the 21st head coach in Ticats' history last January after spending the previous two seasons as a quarterbacks coach with the NFL's Buffalo Bills.
He has won four Grey Cup rings and has three decades of coaching experience in the CFL, NFL and NCAA. O'Billovich has also held several head coach and front-office positions over his long CFL career.
Cortez had three years remaining on his contract.
The news came down just over a week after defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan left the Tiger-Cats for the same position in Winnipeg. Hamilton is now without a head coach, general manager, offensive co-ordinator or defensive co-ordinator.
It is shaping up to be a busy off-season for the Tiger-Cats, who will play their home games next year at the University of Guelph. A new 24,000-seat field is being built on the site of Ivor Wynne Stadium, the team's home for the past 84 years.
Hamilton finished tied with Winnipeg at the bottom of the East Division standings with 12 points. The Tiger-Cats haven't won a Grey Cup since 1999.