Scott Sargent is back with his Thanksgiving week Newsmakers. It's impossible to dethrone the Browns coach at this point, but the Cavaliers point guard ascends to No. 2 -- for all the wrong reasons.
1. Pat Shurmur, head coach, Cleveland Browns (last week: 1)
While this past Sunday's overtime loss in Dallas may not completely be his fault, what with the questionable-at-best officiating and occasional inaccuracies by quarterback Brandon Weeden, the Cleveland Browns, once again, were unable to hold on to a late-game lead and leave the contest with a victory. Seemingly not having the confidence and know-how when it comes to winning football games, Shurmur's play-calling in the second half turned conservative and banal when it should have been aggressive to the point of deflating the opponent on their home field -- this includes an on-side kick by the Cowboys which was recovered and subsequently not capitalized upon; a moment that could have seemingly put the game out of reach for the favorites.
The vaunted rival Pittsburgh Steelers will come to town this weekend, likely bringing with them vans full of mustachioed men and women waiving terrible towels. If Shurmur is going to do anything to save his job come this offseason, the best first step would be to beat a team missing it's most dangerous and integral player in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The stars are lining up, it will just be up to the second-year head coach to finally show that his team knows how to "do it."
Quote of the week: "We've just got to find a way to finish. We have a whole locker room full of winners. This whole organization is full of winners, we've just got to put it all together and do it."
The sixth-leading scorer in the NBA will miss the next four weeks with what is being called a hairline fracture in his left index finger. As if the 2-8 Cavaliers, a very thin team that is boasting one of the worst reserve units in the league, could sustain any setbacks, the reigning Rookie of the Year will be shut down to avoid surgery and any additional missed time.
For those keeping score at home, Irving has now missed time with a concussion, a sprained shoulder, and a broken hand; this, all in addition to the fact that his college career was limited to 11 games due to a toe injury. The silver lining for those who fear further damage to their 20-year-old star is that all previously sustained injuries appear to be of the fluke variety, all occurring to different areas of his body. Also a potential silver lining, the team that once had playoff aspirations could be looking at a record with four or five wins heading into 2013, cementing their position in the lottery come this summer. Oh, and Irving is still only 20 years old.
3. Dion Waiters, shooting guard, Cleveland Cavaliers (last week: 10)
The injury to last season's top draft selection will give way to this season's as it will be up to Waiters to pick up the added slack in Irving's absence. It was not all that long ago when Cavaliers' coach Byron Scott stated that he would have the Syracuse product focus solely on the shooting guard position as to not overload him during his first season at the NBA level. Three weeks in and plans have changed as Waiters will have the ball in his hands even more than he did through the his first 10 games, which saw him boast the second-highest usage rate (23.4) among players with at least 125 minutes played.
Waiters has cracked double figures in just one of his past four games and is coming off of a 2-for-14 performance in his hometown of Philadelphia. Given the upcoming schedule for the Wine and Gold, the rookie will definitely need an ascent on his roller coaster season if his team is going to come away with any additional wins while his backcourt mate is on the shelf.
4. Mike Holmgren, retiring team president, Cleveland Browns (last week: 6)
If it appears that Holmgren has been featured more around these parts since his retirement address than he was as a full-fledged member of the Cleveland Browns, it's because he has. Amazingly, he still has a place in Berea which provides him the opportunity to make impromptu press conferences. Also interesting is that not even days after refuting reports of his interest in a not-yet-vacant head coaching job, it is Holmgren who was seen on the star in the middle of Cowboys Stadium, hob-knobbing with Cowboys owner -- and proclaimed "friend" -- Jerry Jones.
Not long thereafter, more reports circulated surrounding Holmgren's interest in putting the headset back on. This time, there were no refutations by the one they call "The Big Show."
Needless to say, this has drawn the ire of many Browns fans who continue to watch their team produce yet another sub-par season in the midst of Holmgren's well-discussed five-year plan.
5. Byron Scott, head coach, Cleveland Cavaliers (last week: 7)
Beginning to draw similar ire is the man who holds the dry erase board on the sidelines of Cavalier contests. The current Cavaliers roster boasts considerably more potential and talent than the one Scott inherited, but it continues to not translate to wins in the record books. Perhaps this is a part of the grandiose plan laid out by Scott along with general manager Chris Grant and team majority owner Dan Gilbert -- it is nearly unanimous that this Cavaliers team needs one more lottery selection before they can consider competing for an NBA championship within any window.
It's easy to chalk up poor results when many players within the Cavaliers' rotation are in their first or second season as professionals. However, when games continue to be lost by what is being deemed a lack of passion and commitment for the defensive side of the floor, some attention and focus should start to lean the way of the man in charge of squeezing said passion out of his players -- the head coach. The Cavs front office has already gone ahead and picked up Scott's option for next season. While this year may (and should) find them on the outside of the playoffs looking in, it's not far-fetched to put the former Showtime shooting guard on the clock.
6. Brandon Weeden, quarterback, Cleveland Browns (last week: 9)
Bringing his team back from behind against the Cowboys, Weeden showed signs that hadn't yet been seen during his rookie season. It was the defense that unfortunately unraveled once again, allowing a game-tying and game-winning field goal from the foot of Dan Bailey. This is not to say, however, that the entire 48 minutes of Weeden's afternoon was positive -- he missed several open receivers despite getting boat loads of time to throw and aired a crucial fourth-down pass that was fortunately negated when the offense received another chance at retribution. This week will mark his first career game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hopes are that the rookie quarterback can capitalize off of the good moments and be done with the bad.
7. Urban Meyer, head coach, Ohio State Buckeyes (last week: unranked)
Taking a team that lost seven games a season ago and turning them into an undefeated team heading into Michigan week is amazing in its own right. Being able to keep his players -- especially the seniors -- focused and combative despite having nary a consideration for postseason play is a completely ancillary accomplishment. There is a good chance that Meyer's Buckeyes could wind up being the only undefeated team in the FCS. It will only lead to AP recognition, but you can bet that those same voters will remember these Buckeyes come 2013 when the BCS Bowl ban is long in the rear view.
8. Joe Haden, cornerback, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Haden reportedly pulled himself from the active list this past Sunday, claiming to not be able to elevate and lift his arms above his head after sustaining an injury to his oblique. The result: similar to the four games Haden missed due to his suspension for banned substances, losses largely rooted in the passing game. Adding insult to injury, Buster Skrine, flagged for three pass interference penalties against the Cowboys, could also miss time after sustaining a hit to his head. The Browns, being in dire need of a win, could really use Haden on the field.
9. Anderson Varejao, center, Cleveland Cavaliers (last week: 2)
Since starting the season with jaw-dropping outing after jaw-dropping outing, Varejao's box scores have been less so. While he continues to supply top-shelf hustle, the Cavaliers' center will have to attempt to maintain his early-season production without his partner in crime in Irving; the two have played a stellar level of two-man basketball to this point. Will he have similar chemistry with Waiters? As a leader of the team, can he keep a depleted unit from getting discouraged? Can he keep his trade value as high as it was a week ago? Only time will tell.
10. TJ Ward, strong safety, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
It was Ward's 15-yard penalty for the illegal hitting of a defenseless receiver that, having allowed the Dallas Cowboys to march down the field in one minute and five seconds, may have cost the Browns the contest this past Sunday. Ward maintains that he was incorrectly flagged; Browns fans largely continue to echo the safety's sentiments. Regardless, it will be up to Ward to help keep the Steelers at bay this Sunday and there's no better way to erase short-term memory than to record a win over the team from Pittsburgh.
Honorable mention: Jimmy Haslam III, Joe Banner, Trent Richardson, Johnson Bademosi, Tyler Zeller, Daniel "Boobie" Gibson, Tristan Thompson, Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, "Philly" Brown, Chris Antonetti, Terry Francona
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 covers all things Cleveland, providing feature writing and weekly snapshots of what mattered and where we're headed in the world of Cleveland sports.