Person of the Year
THE PICK: Mike Mayock (NFL Network, NBC)
His analyst brethren include Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks (Troy Aikman, Phil Simms) and coaches (Jon Gruden) and former standout players (Chris Collinsworth, Ron Jaworski). Asked to describe his broadcasting career, Mayock said, "I'm a grinder."
A little-used safety for two seasons with the Giants after being selected by the Steelers in the 10th round of the 1981 NFL draft, Mayock's road to the top of his profession includes calling Arena League Football and Canadian games, and even a stint as a sideline reporter on NCAA basketball games for CBS. His break came in 2005 when the NFL Network hired him, and he soon separated himself as television's most authoritative draft analyst, praised by critics and fans for his attention to detail and endless film work. Last year NBC assigned Mayock to its Notre Dame broadcasts, and this year the NFL Network named him as the analyst for its Thursday Night Football package. The grinder now finds his name atop the marquee.
Mayock talks a lot during a broadcast but unlike many others, he speaks from a prepared place, a broadcaster with a qualified opinion about his subject matter. Writing about him for Sports Illustrated, I cited something from his call of the NFL Network's opening-night broadcast between Oakland and San Diego. In that game, he told his audience he was at Raiders practice six days earlier and saw quarterback Carson Palmer working with his receivers on how to get off bumps from cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage. Mayock explained what made this particularly interesting was that it was Palmer, as opposed to a coach or a wideout, teaching the receivers to get off the line. It was the kind of subtle detail viewers have come to appreciate from him. He's a worthy pick for SI.com's highest media award.