NFC East awards: Jay Gruden wins coach of the year in a walk

NFL Nation reporters from the NFC East -- Phil Sheridan, Dan Graziano, John Keim and Todd Archer -- have crunched the numbers, run through the analysis, double-checked their notes and gone with some gut feelings.

This week, they are offering up their NFC East Awards.

After handing out the division’s Rookie of the Year to Washington Redskins' pass-rusher Preston Smith, the division’s coach of the year stays in Washington with Jay Gruden.

Though it might seem as if Gruden won the award by default, he was able to manage a team that had low outside expectations and a possible quarterback controversy early in the season, to the NFC East title with a four-game winning streak to close the season.

The Redskins were 3-5 after eight games. A 19-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in early December was not able to derail Washington, either.

No other coach received a vote -- or deserved a vote. Chip Kelly was fired by the Philadelphia Eagles with one game to play. The New York Giants and Tom Coughlin parted ways after his third straight losing season. A year after winning this award with a 12-4 record, Jason Garrett went 4-12 with the Cowboys.

Here is why our writers voted the way they did:

Phil Sheridan: I’ll admit that I wasn’t all that impressed when Jay Gruden was hired two years ago. Back then, I was under the mistaken impression that Chip Kelly was about to become the NFC East’s dominant head coach. Then Jason Garrett and the Cowboys won the division title in 2014, and Gruden and Washington won it in 2015. Kelly is gone. So is Tom Coughlin. Give Gruden credit: He greased the skids for both of them.

Todd Archer: I wonder if we could have included coordinators into this mix. Maybe Ben McAdoo would have received a vote or even Bill Callahan, Washington’s offensive line coach. But Jay Gruden deserves credit for sticking with Kirk Cousins and keeping the atmosphere positive in a place where that has been a difficult thing to do for any coach. But will he be a repeat winner in 2016? I’m not so sure about that.

Dan Graziano: Jay Gruden wins "decision of the year" for his decision to go with Kirk Cousins at quarterback from the start, commit to him through some early struggles and put in the work to make sure he overcame his deficiencies to play as reliably as any quarterback in the league during the season's most crucial stretches. But Gruden is also the only coach in the division who had a winning record and one of only two who didn't get fired, so this was kind of a no-brainer.

John Keim: Sort of hard to go anywhere but here considering two coaches were fired and a third went 4-12. But even in a weakened NFC East, Gruden deserves credit. The Redskins improved their win total by five games and though winless against teams with a winning record, they beat the teams they should. After the past two seasons in particular, that represented a big improvement. Gruden’s decision to start Cousins, a move some players lobbied for, paid off. The Redskins had plenty of contributors in winning the division, and general manager Scot McCloughan brought in the right sort of players to change the culture. But Gruden won points with the players for how he took care of them and for how he sold his game plan each week (a knock on him his first season).