“Who the hell is Mel Kiper anyway?” – Bob Irsay Indianapolis Colts
“I just don’t think the Jets understand the draft.” – Mel Kiper Jr.
When you hear the name Mel Kiper Jr, you know it’s time for the NFL Draft. Toiling in relative obscurity in the early days of the televised draft, Kiper’s sharp criticisms, befuddled looks after picks and cynicism have made him more of a household name recently. He’s appeared on ESPN’s draft coverage ever since 1984. His signature widow’s peak, gruff exterior and sharp tongue, have become as much of the experience as Jets fans booing whatever pick their team makes in the first round.
THE ROAD NFL DRAFT ANALYST
The story of how he came to be is pretty amazing. Kiper is a self-made man. The football scouting bug bit him early. While in high school he began writing scouting reports on players and he was so confident in them, he handed them to an NFL Executive. Ernie Accorsi, who was then with the Baltimore Colts, saw the first reports and encouraged Kiper to stop giving away his research and start selling it to fans. Accorsi told him that there was a market for draft information and suggested that Kiper convert his analysis into a business.
So, while in college he started a business and now Kiper is president of “Kiper Enterprises”, which he founded in 1981. He spent numerous hours on the phone with college coaches and NFL GM’s trying to soak up information on players as he could, and in front of televisions to glean every last tidbit about a defensive lineman’s hip swivel and an offensive tackle’s motor.
Kiper was one of the first, if not the first to do a mock draft. These aren’t just done a week before the draft begins, they are done months ahead. These “mocks” that are so commonplace now and done by so many writers and publications, were unheard of when he started evaluating players.
What he didn’t realize then and what America was about to find out, is that the information he gathered would eventually play on TV. Early on there wasn’t as much attention paid to the draft as there is now. It wasn’t even televised until 1980. ESPN was trying to expand and give credibility to its coverage and wanted experts to join the telecast. That’s were a 23-year-old Kiper got his break at least in the broadcasting world. He was paid $400 bucks to appear on the network in 1984. He brought that credibility in his research and knowledge. It wasn’t always as polished as it is now, but the info was amazing.
BEST KNOWN FOR?
Kiper has had some pretty well-known run ins with some organizations. He’s made comments about who they picked or didn’t when their turn came up. Perhaps the most famous was in 1994 between Kiper and then Colts executive Bill Tobin.
It all started when a discussion began about what the Colts should do with their 2 first round picks. The Colts owned the #2 pick and after a trade of Jeff George to the Falcons they acquired the number 7 pick. That trade left only Jim Harbaugh on the roster, so naturally Kiper believed the Colts should draft a quarterback, either Heath Shuler or Trent Dilfer.
When the Colts made their first selection, Tobin chose future Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. Kiper offered a little light criticism, insisting that the Colts needed to take a QB. Tobin then chose to trade up to the #5 pick, Shuler was off the board, so naturally everyone thought it was going to be Dilfer. The Colts chose linebacker Trev Alberts and Kiper lost it.
“I think it was a typical Colts move,” Kiper said to host Chris Berman that night. “The Colts needed a quarterback. To pass up a Trent Dilfer when all you have is Jim Harbaugh — give me a break. That’s why the Colts are picking second every year in the draft and not battling for the Super Bowl like other clubs in the National Football League.”
The telecast then brought in reporter Chris Mortensen who was covering the Colts. He asked Tobin for his response to criticism during a post-draft interview, the Colts GM came ready to fire back. “Who in the hell is Mel Kiper anyway?” asks Tobin. “Here’s a guy that criticizes everybody, whoever they take. He’s got the answers to who you should take and who you shouldn’t take. And my knowledge of him: he’s never ever put on a jock strap, he’s never been a coach, he’s never been a scout, he’s been an administrator and all of a sudden he’s an expert.”
The best part was as the rant from Tobin was going on, Kiper was listening in to the insults.
“We don’t have to take anyone Mel Kiper says we have to take,” Tobin continues. “Mel Kiper has no more credentials to do what he’s doing than my neighbor, and my neighbor’s a postman, and he doesn’t even have season tickets to the NFL.” Talk about free attention for your draft analyst! Tobin was clearly trying to embarrass Kiper but the plan didn’t work. In fact, it only led to a rise in fame for Kiper. It actually helped to solidify Kiper as the authority when it came to the NFL Draft. Tobin was fired after the 1996 season.
The other one of the most well-known rants came in 1989. That’s when the Jets chose defensive lineman Jeff Lageman with the 14th overall pick. Kiper went on to say, “It’s obvious to me right now that the Jets just don’t understand what the draft is all about.” Those comments of course made it back to the Jets and sparked a mini-feud (by comparison to the Colts). Then the Jets director of college scouting Mike Hickey made Kiper a phenom by saying “‘Basically, who is this guy who works out of his basement in Baltimore?” Hickey was replaced the following year, and Kiper is still doing the draft on ESPN.
WHY IS HE GOOD?
He is the OG when it comes to draft analysis. This is his gig. He puts in the work and it shows. The research he does is meticulous and includes watching up to 25 college football games a week. This gives him a leg up on everyone, because he gains in-depth knowledge by actually getting eyes on the players he’s writing and talking about. He also spends a lot of time in talks with coaches, players, NFL team executives and folks in the league offices. Kiper creates his “big board“, which he ranks the top 25 players every week. During ESPN’s coverage of the draft, his board appears on the ticker and then updates as players are selected.
He is a frequent guest on radio and tv shows in the months and weeks leading up to the NFL draft. His information is so valuable that he does a conference call with members of the national media a few days before the first pick is announced. It’s that kind of authority that makes him the number one pick of every draft, since his first in 1984.
While he may come off as a know it all sometimes, there’s no denying he’s the best at what he does. I really can’t imagine draft coverage without him. It would be an empty broadcast. There’s nothing better than watching Kiper lament a terrible pick or gloat in his own way when a prediction comes through. He’s just intense and it works.
I can’t wait to hear Kiper and some of his buzz words. Beast mode runner. Burst. Coach killer. Fast riser. First kid off the bus. Mauler. Playmaker. Quicks. Space eater. Specimen. Throwback player. Velcro corner. Weightroom warrior. Finally, of course, best player available.
Kiper is atop the “Big Board” of draft analysts and that’s not a reach.
Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call
“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”
I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.
The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.
Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.
Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.
We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.
I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.
You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.
People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.
How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.
Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.
If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.
In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.
Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.
What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.
Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!
“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”
Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?
Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.
To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:
#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?
#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?
#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?
If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!
Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.
Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:
#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.
#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.
#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.
#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.
#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.
Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!
Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas
“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”
Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?
Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!
One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.
Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.
There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.
Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.
I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.
Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.
It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?
Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.
If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.
Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.
A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.
“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.
We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.
As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.
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