Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
In the coming days, I'm going to have an online debate with one of our other bloggers on who is the coach of the year in the NFL.
I won't reveal the other blogger's identity or the coach he's going to write about, but I will say I drew the right straw here. My candidate is Atlanta's Mike Smith and that's going to be the first slam dunk of my life (other than on a 9-foot basket).
Smith isn't just the coach of the year, he's the coach who saved a franchise and made football relevant in Atlanta. That alone makes a pretty strong case. But the topper to it all came today as the Falcons, who were 4-12 and in disarray a year ago, clinched a playoff berth.
No coach has done more than Smith. And here's the scary part: Smith's not done yet. The Falcons are one of those teams that are heading into the playoffs with a lot of momentum and they're the kind of team that gets better each week. Even on the road, Smith and the Falcons could keep surprising everyone and win a game or two or three.