Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE
With just two weeks left in the NFL season, the discussion has moved to the impending turnover in Browns management.
Plenty of new names added to the list this week as the Browns season begins to draw to a close and the changing of the guard in Berea becomes even more inevitable.
1. Pat Shurmur, dead man walking, Cleveland Browns (last week: 1)
Talk about a fall from grace: It was only a week ago where we were discussing the much-maligned head coach of the Cleveland Football Browns retaining his head coaching position that was all but gone. Unfortunately for the 47-year-old play-caller, a soul-crushing loss to the Washington Redskins -- led by a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut as a starter -- all but sealed his fate in Berea.
Playing out the course of the year provides a sticky situation. Naturally, every single down is about the future -- what players are a part of the future, who can make an impact? But with Shurmur likely on his way out, he could be deciding the long-term fate of players who will not be playing for him in as little as two weeks. Given that two defensive starters have recently been added to the injured reserve and one crucial member has been waived, there will be plenty of opportunities for players to prove themselves. Letting Shurmur decide who will get those opportunities, however, seems to be a lost cause in every sense of the phrase.
Quote of the week: "We lost a football game, plain and simple. There's no big picture view of that, other than the fact that we made too many mistakes, and we did not make enough plays to win the football game. That's the situation."
2. Tom Heckert, collateral damage, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Surprising everyone -- potentially even his superiors -- the Browns general manager took to the podium in Berea to clear the air: if he is indeed not a part of this franchise in 2013, it will not be due to his decision to step down.
Providing the Browns with the vast majority of their starting units via the last three NFL Drafts, Heckert is one of -- if not the -- reason that his team has been able to progress the way it has over the course of the last 12 months, winning more games against a considerably tougher schedule, with a considerably younger team.
While he may not share the same vision as Browns CEO Joe Banner, even the most stubborn of controlling business men can't deny the impact Heckert has made on this current cast. Then again, the fact that Heckert's major addition during his first year with the team in defensive back Dimitri Patterson was waived this week -- during the first year of a three-year contract extension, nonetheless -- cannot bode well for the future.
3. Alec Scheiner, team president, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Not much is known about the new President of the Cleveland Browns, but the fact that he's coming from Dallas -- where everything is bigger, better and brand-oriented -- is undoubtedly a positive. During his brief introduction to the city of Cleveland, he pandered a bit to the history and nostalgia that continues to be the face of the Cleveland Browns. But if Scheiner was brought in to do anything, it's to get the Good Ship Cleveland steered back in the right direction after a decade of traveling in circles through deserted waters.
Scheiner has already promised to make the fan experience at Cleveland Browns stadium more exciting and inviting, controlling the controllable while letting the football minds focus their efforts on the on-field product -- a dichotomy not exactly embraced or executed well by the team's former President Mike Holmgren. Between Scheiner, Joe Banner and current Browns executive Vice President Brian Wiedermeier, it is obvious that the team is focusing a lot of resources on this side of the product, something that has been long overdue.
After cushioning a fall with the left side of his face, Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving arrived in Gotham City with a thick black protective mask, left his cape on the bench, and proceeded to drop a career-best 41 points on the upstart New York Knicks. The Cavaliers would lose the game on a missed free throw from Anderson Varejao but it was Irving, regardless of the outcome, who was the story of the night, providing a slew of spin-moves, cross-over dribbles and a variety of other shakes and bakes which rendered would-be defenders looking downright silly.
On the other side of the coin, it is Irving who continues to draw criticism for his defensive efforts -- or lack thereof. Cavs head coach Byron Scott has tried multiple schemes and has switched small forward Alonzo Gee on the opposition's point guards where necessary, but this has provided very little in terms of the team's win total. Irving is undoubtedly one of the brightest stars of the NBA's future, let alone Cleveland's, but until his defense improves, he will continue to be viewed below those like Chris Paul and Derrick Rose.
While the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants come equipped with World Series appearances and truckloads of money, the Cleveland Indians opted to woo Nick Swisher with two meals and meetings with such notables like Ohio State's men's basketball coach Thad Matta.
The Indians are reportedly offering Swisher, 32, a four-year contract worth upwards of $40 million; they can also guarantee him an everyday spot in the lineup. Will it be enough to woo a player who would arguably be the biggest-named free agent to come to Cleveland -- in any sport -- within the last several years? Odds cannot be in the Tribe's favor.
6. Brandon Weeden, quarterback, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Still looking for that signature game, Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden has seemingly provided more questions than answers as the team heads into the offseason. With a regime change likely, it remains to be seen whether or not the front office would be willing to eat a recent first-round selection right out of the gate, or delay their decision, potentially pushing the clock of competitiveness off another year.
Weeden was said to come armed with maturity and composure and all the other intangibles that are not as common with rookie quarterbacks. Instead, Cleveland has been shown questionable decision-making and a lack of risk-taking (read: confidence). He'll have two weeks -- on the road, unfortunately -- to help the Browns front office make a call. For Weeden's sake, let's hope it's the right one.
7. Dion Waiters, shooting guard, Cleveland Cavaliers (last week: unranked)
After missing nearly three weeks of play with an ankle injury, the Cavs' most recent fourth-overall draft choice has returned to the hardwood to help an otherwise offensively challenged team add to their win total.
The results have been mixed as Waiters has combined to shoot 10-of-28 from the floor in back-to-back nights, turning the ball over a combined six times. He's adding assists and getting to the basket -- 3-of-4 at the rim in the late-game loss in Boston -- but does continue to take some ill-advised three-point shots.
The duration of the season will likely be about development. The end result will be up to Waiters and the staff.
8. Mike Lombardi, rumor mill mainstay, Cleveland Browns (last week: 8)
With each additional amount of speculation surrounding the future of Tom Heckert, the momentum behind the swirling smoke known as Mike Lombardi continues to mount. What started out as easily dismissed rumors has become scary, scary potential.
It is widely believed that if Heckert is indeed relieved of his duties that the Browns would not hire another general manager who would have full control of the roster; Lombardi's role would conceivably be solely focused on player personnel and scouting, leaving the contract negotiations to Joe Banner. Hopes are that this is all a nasty rumor and all of this speculation is rendered moot...
9. Josh McDaniels, potential head coach, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
...But if it isn't, the man who would likely be pegged as the successor to Shurmur is a former head coach of the Broncos and the current offensive coordinator of the powerhouse New England Patriots. He may have been the man responsible for Tim Tebow. He may have also been the offensive coordinator in St. Louis the year Pat Shurmur left. But the upstart McDaniels is still only 36 years old and continues to learn under the tutelage of Bill Belichick. Also in McDaniels' corner: Jimmy Haslam III's relationship with New England owner Robert Kraft.
10. Brian Brennan, retired wide receiver, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Shameless plug, but I recently penned a feature-length profile on the man who caught the go-ahead touchdown in the 1986 AFC Championship game. Brennan, long retired from the game of football, has taken on a completely different career path; one that's taken him completely away from the field and into the private sector as a white-collared executive. It's a transition that many Browns fans are unaware of and is a story undoubtedly worth reading. Thanks in advance, folks.
Honorable mention: Jimmy Haslam III, Joe Banner, TJ Ward, Dimitri Patterson, Josh Cribbs, Phil Dawson, Byron Scott, Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller, Chris Perez, Terry Francona, Chris Antonetti, Mark Shapiro, Jim Tressel
Scott 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. In addition to his writing, he's also made radio and television appearances on 92.3 The Fan, ESPN 850 WKNR, 100.7 WMMS, FS Ohio, WKYC, and SportsTime Ohio. 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.