This was the toughest call on the ballot because 49ers situational pass rusher Aldon Smith (14 sacks) came on late. But Miller, the second overall pick out of Texas A&M, was unstoppable before being slowed—just a bit—by torn ligaments in his right thumb late in the season.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Middle linebacker, Browns
After missing 26 games in 2009 and '10 with two separate pectoral tears, Jackson came back to lead the conference in tackles (158) in his sixth year, doing so mostly in anonymity in Cleveland. Nods here also to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and Patriots defensive end Andre Carter.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Coming to the Niners after a successful stint at Stanford, Harbaugh took a six-win team that, because of the lockout, he first met seven weeks before opening day and led them to 13 victories—in the process transforming a bottom-feeding offense into an effective unit that might be good enough to challenge for a Super Bowl berth.
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR