Falcons' Smith coach of year

Mike Smith and Tony Sparano performed so brilliantly as rookie head coaches it almost was 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.

"I'm honored individually, but more so for our coaching staff and our players," Smith said. "I think we have tried to establish that we'd be very systematic in how we did things, that we were going to have a plan."

Cowher plans to stay put at CBSBill Cowher doesn't plan to coach in the NFL next year, and will stay with CBS Sports as a studio analyst.

Cowher recently was wooed by the New York Jets, but said during "The NFL Today" 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."

ELSEWHEREBill Parcells is staying with the Miami Dolphins, owner Wayne Huizenga said. After the team's playoff loss to the Ravens, Huizenga said Parcells has decided to remain for another season. Parcells' contract allows him to leave and still receive the $9-12 million remaining on his four-year contract if the franchise is sold. That sale is expected to be completed soon. But Huizenga said Parcells told him Friday he plans to remain as executive vice president of football operations. ...

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. The two spoke Saturday after Gilbride had expressed interest in the job through his agent, Raiders senior executive John Herrera said Sunday. Gilbride is the first outside candidate to talk to Davis about the job. 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. ....

Browns owner Randy Lerner will interview Baltimore director of pro personnel George Kokinis for the club's general manager position, a meeting that could clear the way for Cleveland to hire fired New York Jets coach Eric Mangini. ... The San Diego Chargers' 23-17 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts tied the mark for the best overnight rating (18.3) for a Saturday wild-card game since 1999.

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