I suspected Mike Smith would win this award from Week 1 onward.
That might sound like hyperbole, but the way he had the Falcons playing early on showed a complete transformation in the team's character. While guys like Tony Sparano in Miami are very deserving for the honor, the complete homer in me has favored Smith all season long.
To take a team as young as the Falcons and turn them from a busted up toy airplane to a dragon mounted with a minigun and rocket launchers requires a coach with the patience, fire and skill to effect such a change. Thomas Dimitroff presided over a roster gutting and restocking that left the Falcons with a talented young bunch of offensive players and a ton of holes on defense, close to the absolute best he could do in one offseason. Smith supplied an aggressive coaching scheme, a great group of coordinators and position coaches and an entirely new philosophy from the years of Bobby Petrino and Jim Mora.
To boil it down, he was a breath of fresh air. He really did some great things with a roster that still need some help, and it should truly frighten the league at large that he'll have a (hopefully) better roster next season. The level of planning was there all season, and I never once went into a game believing we'd get blown away. The Coach of the Year award reflects the progress the Falcons made from doormat to upper echelon, and I truly believe that no more than a handful of coaches in the league cook up a better game plan than Smith (this last game, perhaps, notwithstanding.)
It's a testament to Smith's excellence this year, and it is richly deserved.