Almost a complete changing of the guard through most of this week's list, but the man at the top -- who somehow found himself a bit lower last week -- will have one hell of a time being dethroned for the foreseeable future. Well earned, I might add. Let's dig in...
1. Pat Shurmur, Head Coach, Cleveland Browns (last week: 5)
What a week for the second-year head coach: A depressing loss, a post-game tirade and now reports of off-the-record chastising of those who are critical of his play-calling and indiscretions. It's undoubtedly been a rough week for the second-year head coach and, considering his current 11-game losing streak and the first home game in three weeks, things could get Steve Buscemi ugly on the shores of Lake Erie if the Browns fail to beat the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday.
It can be argued that Shurmur is being hung out to dry by team president Mike Holmgren, who has seemingly disappeared since the announcement of one Jimmy Haslam as new principal owner, as well as his public relations staff who refuses to put out every fire that comes their way; pyromaniacs, personified. But it is Shurmur who is making a head coach's salary and is making the in-game decisions which are ultimately questioned following each and every game.
Quote of the week: "You can either run the ball, or you can throw it, okay?"
2. Terry Francona, Manager, Cleveland Indians (last week: 4)
If Shurmur can learn anything from a media relations standpoint, he should have listened to the heartfelt and affable introduction of one Terry Francona as manager of the disappointing Cleveland Indians. Amidst his discussion surrounding payroll and player development, Francona dropped a line about accountability, stating that if he fails to justify in-game deicsions, then he is not doing his job.
Only time will turn the pages on this chapter of Wahoo baseball, but while the firing of Manny Acta was unfortunate, the hiring of someone with the pedigree and resumé of Francona undoubtedly hits a refresh button on a downtrodden franchise. The rest of the morale-boosting lies firmly in the hands of the team's ownership and front office who will have a substantial amount of money at their disposal.
Have they learned from their past mistakes?
3. Jimmy Haslam III, Soon-to-be owner, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
As the NFL's owner's meetings inch closer, the city awaits the approval of their owner and savior, James Haslam III. A showing of remarkable restraint -- how this Southern Gentleman hasn't turned into a seersucker-wearing hurricane is unbeknownst to many; he continues to remind national media that he is, in fact, not the owner of the Browns at this point.
He is, however, going to be counted on as the man who erases all of the pain and misery caused by the subject of the "Cleveland '95" documentary. He's the man who will have a lot of decisions to make once the calendar turns to 2013 and if any city tears through goodwill like their dollar drafts, it is Cleveland. The sand is already dripping through the hourglass, whether the third James Haslam likes it or not.
4. Scott Fujita, Linebacker, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Speaking of restraint, not adding the Browns veteran linebacker to these lists has been very tough -- it's been an active decision, if not wishful thinking, that the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal would just go away already.
Under no circumstances should this affect the Cleveland Browns. It did, however, produce a pretty solid quote from Fujita wherein he says that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is exhibiting an "absolute abuse of his power." Given that he's essentially suspended for not telling his superior to not cuss, it's difficult to not side with the player on this one.
5. Joe Haden, Cornerback, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
In his four-game absence, while suspended for taking Adderall as means to fuel a Vegas-bound bender, the Cleveland Browns secondary allowed an embarrassingly bad 10 touchdowns through the air -- three alone were acheived by New York's salsa-dancing Victor Cruz.
Haden can apologize to fans and teammates and coaches all he'd like. The real apologies can be given on the field, shutting down opposing receivers, allowing Brandon Weeden and the Browns offense to stay in games. Trial by fire this Sunday as the would-be Pro Bowler will be locked up with Cincinnati's AJ Green.
His paltry summer league performance was reportedly due to injury coupled with a lack of conditioning. His 1-of-7 preseason game and subsequent benching due to a "lack of focus" will undoubtedly not instill a lot of confidence.
Waiters certainly has the athleticism and talent, but can his maturity level not only mesh with the NBA, but with a no-nonsense head coach like Byron Scott? There is legitimate concern by some Cavalier fans, especially considering a complete lack of pre-draft interviews. But if any coach in Cleveland can earn the respect of a rookie -- or at least win the battle of wills -- it's one Byron Scott.
7. Urban Meyer, Head coach, Ohio State Buckeyes (last week: unranked)
Jim Tressel had a ton of fans in the state of Ohio, but it was Urban Meyer who, in just his fifth game at the helm, decided to drop 63 points on a division rival. While typical Ohio State gameplay would have used a victory formation, it was Meyer who opted to pound it down the throats of every Nebraska Cornhusker fan who still had the stomach to watch the waning moments of Saturday night's drubbing. Can they run the table?
8. Trent Richardson, Running back, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Maturing by the week, Richardson was named captain for this Sunday's game against the Bengals. It was against Cincy where the third-overall pick had his coming out party on the ground as well as through the air. Can he keep it going in what's shaping to be a must-win game for the city of Cleveland?
9. Byron Scott, Head coach, Cleveland Cavaliers (last week: unranked)
Though he won the battle with a stubborn J.J. Hickson, if the Cavaliers struggle for what will be a third-straight season and their head coach clashes with his lottery pick, could it be the coach who finds himself on the way out? I'm a firm believer that these two men will ultimately gel, but it could be a bumpy start. Will there be enough patience to go around?
10. Greg Little, Wide receiver, Cleveland Browns (last week: 6)
Little quickly left the spotlight -- from the plethora of dropped passes and fan backlash to a mere two targets and zero catches against a battered Giants defense. With Mohamed Massaquoi, Travis Benjamin and Jordan "nine receptions" Norwood sustaining injuries, it's tough to imagine the Browns putting up any sort of offensive numbers this Sunday without Little being involved. Whether or not he can produce like the second-rounder the Browns thought they were getting, remains to be seen.
Scott Sargent is a co-founder of WaitingForNextYear, where he writes about all three professional Cleveland teams. He's been voted "Ohio's Best Sports Blogger" for his work at WFNY. Scott will be covering all things Cleveland, providing feature writing and weekly snapshots of what mattered and where we're headed in the world of Cleveland sports.