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NFL Notebook: Coach of Year – Falcons’ Smith

Associated Press
The NFL notebook …
NEW YORK ó Mike Smith and Tony Sparano performed so brilliantly as rookie head coaches it was almost impossible to separate them.
Atlanta’s Smith edged Miami’s Sparano by one vote Sunday for The Associated Press 2008 NFL Coach of the Year award.
Both coaches oversaw sensational turnarounds, leading their teams from last-place finishes in 2007 to playoff berths this year. Their achievements were reflected by the closeness of the balloting, with Smith getting 23 1/2 votes and Sparano 22 1/2 from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL.
After improving from 4-12 to 11-5 and making the NFC playoffs as a wild card, the Falcons fell 30-24 at Arizona on Saturday night. That should not detract from a memorable season that bodes well for the football future in Atlanta.
TITANS
NASHVILLE, Tenn. ó Now it really feels just like the 2000 season all over again for the Tennessee Titans.
That was the season Tennessee posted the NFL’s best record at 13-3 and earned the AFC’s No. 1 seed with home-field advantage ó just like this year. Tampa is hosting the Super Bowl, just like in 2000. And the Baltimore Ravens added to the deja vu feeling Sunday by beating Miami 27-9 to earn a trip to Music City for an AFC divisional playoff game next Saturday.
The Ravens won that 2000 divisional playoff game 24-10 en route to their Super Bowl championship.
The Titans? Well, they are targeting an eventual trip to Tampa, too, in what will be a rematch of a 13-10 win over the Ravens in Baltimore on Oct. 5.
“Now that we know our opponent, we have a tremendous challenge ahead of us,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said in a statement Sunday. “Baltimore has improved in all areas since we saw them earlier this season. They are built around a strong run game and a great defense, which reminds us of the classic matchups against them in the past.”
RAIDERS
ALAMEDA, Calif. ó Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis had a 90-minute phone conversation with New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride about the team’s coaching vacancy.
Interim coach Tom Cable is also a candidate after running the team for the final 12 games following the firing of Lane Kiffin in September, going 4-8.
Gilbride’s only previous head coaching experience in the NFL came in 1997-98, when he went 6-16 for the San Diego Chargers.
COWHER UPDATE
NEW YORK ó Bill Cowher doesn’t plan to coach in the NFL next year, and will stay with CBS Sports as a studio analyst.
Cowher was recently wooed by the New York Jets, but said during “The NFL Today” on Sunday that he’s taking it “year to year.”
“It’s a privilege and an honor to be a head coach in the National Football League,” Cowher said. “And I have been flattered about the attention, but the timing right now is not right. I don’t plan on coaching next year.”
DOLPHINS
MIAMI ó Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga says Bill Parcells is staying with Miami. Huizenga said Parcells told him he plans to remain as executive vice president of football operations.
RATINGS
NEW YORK ó The San Diego Chargers’ 23-17 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts tied the mark for the best overnight rating for a Saturday wild-card game.

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