1. Jimmy Haslam III, newly crowned owner, Cleveland Browns (last week: 3)
Congratulated by a standing ovation amidst a sea (okay...31) of billionaires, James Haslam III finally became the man an entire city had been awaiting for the last six weeks: majority owner of the Cleveland Browns. As if his media rounds were not enough prior to the beginning of the season, Haslam continues to say all of the right things during a time of the year -- or every four years -- when all that's pointed out are those words that come out wrong.
Haslam may not have a binder full of women, but he undoubtedly has a laundry list of items that he will work to improve as the team becomes, in his words, the most fan-friendly organization in professional sports. Given their lone win in the last three months of regular season football, the former CEO of Pilot-Flying J has his work cut out for him. Thankfully for fans of the Cleveland Browns, the man continues to be a breath of fresh air despite having been around the team since August 3.
As an aside: how about that new house?
Quote of the week: "I had always heard what a great football town and football area Cleveland and Northeast Ohio is, but what we've experienced since August 3 has been nothing short of phenomenal. This is truly one of the great, iconic NFL brands and if you think back to Paul Brown and of course arguably the greatest NFL player of all time, Jim Brown, it's a very special place."
2. Pat Shurmur, head coach, Cleveland Browns (last week: 1)
One guy who is hoping to be a part of the Haslam-fueled progress is the second-year head coach of the Browns. If the biggest complaint we can field following a Sunday is based on the length of his post-game victory speech, it's safe to say we're in a good place -- for a week, anyway.
Haslam has stated that he and Shurmur have spoken at length; the owner praised the head coach as a person as well as an NFL professional. But as the season continues on, the idea that Shurmur is coaching for his job is not far-fetched. Will this force the head coach to make decisions which he would not have made otherwise? Is progress coupled with losses going to be considered progress at all? With all of these questions that will loom for the next 11 weeks of football, one thing is undoubtedly for certain: winnng is a lot more fun to talk about than the alternative.
3. Mike Holmgren, former team president, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Well that was anticlimactic. The Mike Holmgren chapter in the Browns book of misery has seen its final period. The future Hall-of-Famer essentially rode in on a white steed to headlines and fanfare and elevated dreams; he will ride out on his Harley Davidson, leaving behind an unfinished puzzle, a half-consumed beer, and a bucket of what-ifs.
If Jimmy Haslam decides to stick with Shurmur and the rest of the Holmgren-selected staff, we will ultimately get to see what "the vision" produced. If not, the Browns merely wasted another handful of years in a rebuild -- the five-year plan will ultimately have the plug pulled after just three seasons. Was keeping Eric Mangini for a year the death blow that just took a few years to affect the vital organs?
As the de facto owner, Holmgren being shown the door was an expected move. A Super Bowl-winning coach and a part of one of the most famous coaching trees in the game, Holmgren was undoubtedly a name that people knew before he even arrived. If anything provides friction as the team transitions to its new regime, it will be that most fans do not know much about...
4. Joe Banner, newly crowned CEO, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
We know he's a shrewd business man. We know he has ties to the Philadelphia Eagles and essentially every individual in the current Browns front office and coaching staff. But once we get past the first layer of the onion, what awaits is largely a mystery. Listening to Joe Banner speak of his impending future as CEO of the Cleveland Browns, it's evident that he has a plethora of ideas that he wishes to execute -- who will be here to help execute, however, largely remains a mystery.
His first order of business will likely be the retention or release of...
5. Tom Heckert, General Manager, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Potentially having the most supporters among the fans of the Cleveland Browns, Heckert appears to also have the least amount of optimism when it comes to being retained by the new ownership team. He's the man responsible for the drafting of the core of this team, and has current say over the 53-man roster that could ultimately decide the fate of not only him but the head coach, who is tasked with using the human resources as means to win football games. Heckert is a huge domino that would likely signal the future for every single man below him on the Orange and Brown totem pole. At least, during his time here, he was able to provide the city with...
6. Trent Richardson, running back, Cleveland Browns (last week: 8)
Richardson, despite educating the world on what, exactly, a "flank" is, continues to be the playmaker who this team desperately needed heading into the past offseason. With an upcoming game against the swiss cheese run defense of the Indianapolis Colts, there is a solid chance that the rookie running back is higher than sixth come this time next week. This kid will be team captain in no time.
7. Josh Gordon, wide receiver, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Gordon has now provided consecutive weeks of SportsCenter top plays thanks to his ability to exploit schemed mismatches, subsequently leading to six points earned through the air.
WIth three touchdowns in the last two weeks, the rookie wide receiver is slowly proving to be worth every bit of that supplemental second-round pick. While it came at the expense of another second-rounder in Mohamed Massaquoi (who continues to miss time with injury), it could be argued that the team is in better shape with the raw Gordon stretching the field. Can he keep it up?
You thought it was going to be a clean Browns sweep, didn't you? Had all of this gone down a week or so ago, it may very well could have. With the Cavaliers season looming, however, the question revolving around the Wine and Gold's starting five remains to be answered. I've stated the case for the Cavaliers' fourth-overall pick to come off of the bench, at least during his rookie season, but the salivating surrounding a backcourt pairing of he and Kyrie Irving is more than warranted. These two will be fun to watch. It just remains a question as to how much they'll be on the floor together.
9. Joe Haden, cornerback, Cleveland Browns (last week: 5)
After the defensive backfield allowed 10 touchdowns through the air during his four game, Adderall-based suspension, Browns fans were quickly able to forgive and forget after Haden's impact was immediately felt in their Week 6 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. He will not be able to play in the Pro Bowl due to the rules surrounding his absence, but there is no doubt that the former seventh-overall pick is playing at the highest level since he landed in Cleveland.
10. Montario Hardesty, running back, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Thought to have been on the bubble of being cut, Montario Hardesty had his number called and responded like the player the Browns throught they were getting when they traded up to get him in the second round two years ago. Though his injury history and downright disappointment would lead one to believe otherwise, Hardesty could wind up being one of this season's biggest surprises if he continues to produce when needed.
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.