A pair of first-year coaches made a splash in the post-season in more ways than one as it was announced that Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith and Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano will share the USA TODAY’s NFL Coach of the Year Award. The award was well-deserved for both coaches as they both engineered a dramatic improvement to their team’s win-loss bottom line.
The turnarounds were nothing short of amazing; the Dolphins were 1-15 before they hired Sparano, whose team tied the record for the best single-season turnaround in NFL history. Miami went 11-5 in 2008, won the AFC East and reached the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Falcons – trying to recover from the Michael Vick episode and head coach Bobby Petrino resigning – grabbed Smith from the Jacksonville Jaguars where he was the defensive coordinator. He turned the Falcons from a laughing-stock to legitimate contenders as the team went 11-5 and earend the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs.
Below is the NFL Coach of the Year voting breakdown; first-place votes are in parentheses: