Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Head coach: Mike Smith, Falcons.
You couldn't go wrong with Carolina's John Fox, who took himself off the hot seat with a 12-win season. But Smith was starting with very low expectations in his first year. He got the absolute most out of his roster.
Defensive coordinator: Mike Trgovac, Panthers.
Departing Tampa Bay coordinator Monte Kiffin would get this if it were a lifetime achievement award, but it's not. Besides, Kiffin's defense collapsed the last four games and cost the Bucs a playoff berth. Trgovac did a very solid job, getting defensive end Julius Peppers to bounce back and finally getting outside linebacker Thomas Davis to play to his potential.
Offensive coordinator: Mike Mularkey, Falcons.
All he did was help Matt Ryan look like the best rookie quarterback ever. How long before Mularkey is a head coach again?
Special teams: Keith Armstrong, Falcons.
This guy is one of the best special-teams coaches in the league and he got plenty out of his units this year. Once the Falcons went to rookie Harry Douglas as their main punt returner, the special teams were excellent across the board.
General manager: Marty Hurney, Panthers.
You could make a strong case for Atlanta's Thomas Dimitroff, who seemed to hit the ball out of the park with every move he made in his first year with the Falcons. But the Falcons are getting a lot of love here, and we've got to spread things out a bit. Like Fox, Hurney took himself off the hot seat with a strong season. Hurney, uncharacteristically, gambled when he traded back into the first round to draft tackle Jeff Otah. That move paid off because Otah helped make the running game outstanding. Also, give Hurney some credit for not panicking and believing his trainers and medical staff when they said quarterback Jake Delhomme would be fine after major elbow surgery.