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NFL Coach of the Year rankings: Adam Gase, Dan Quinn in mix

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Each week from now through the end of the 2016 season, Bucky Brooks will be checking in on the Coach of the Year race with a snapshot of his top five candidates. Here's how the leaders shape up after Week 16.

NOTE: The up/down arrows illustrate changes from last week's COY rankings.

RANK

1

Jason Garrett, Cowboys

There aren't many coaches capable of guiding a team to the league's best record with a pair of rookies thriving in marquee roles. That's why Garrett is the clear frontrunner in this race with the Cowboys sitting atop the NFC with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott pacing a dominant offense that has made Jerry Jones' squad look unbeatable down the stretch. The rookies are not only playing like seasoned vets at their positions, but they are emerging as strong leaders for a team that's peaking heading into the playoffs. With a no-name defense that's wearing out opponents with heart and hustle, the Cowboys' head coach deserves credit for his stellar work in Big D.

RANK

2

Andy Reid, Chiefs

2

Despite being rarely cited as one of the most creative play designers in football, Reid deserves a mention after unveiling several exotic plays that have helped the Chiefs put points on the board on offense and in the kicking game. While Tyreek Hill has been the biggest beneficiary of Reid's splendid work, Dontari Poe has become one of his favorite subjects as a designated red zone weapon. The 6-foot-3, 346-pound defensive tackle has scored touchdowns on a bubble screen and a "jump pass" that showcased his unrivaled athleticism and versatility as a big-bodied playmaker. With Reid also digging deep into the playbook to take advantage of Travis Kelce's explosive skills on the perimeter (see: 80-yard touchdown on a bubble screen against Denver), the Chiefs' head coach deserves a spot on the list for his creativity and winning pedigree.

RANK

3

Jack Del Rio, Raiders

1

The Raiders' swaggy coach has pushed all of the right buttons on the way to guiding the team to a 12-3 record, but the loss of Derek Carr will test his creativity and motivational skills. After spending most of the season riding a red-hot offense to the winner's circle, Del Rio will need to get his defense and kicking units going to help the team overcome Carr's injury setback. He's shown his exceptional defensive acumen when he positioned Khalil Mack at LDE/LOLB in the middle of the season to exploit favorable matchups against right tackles to spark the team's pass rush. In addition, he's challenged the secondary to play with better discipline to prevent balls from flying over their heads, which resulted in significantly improved play in recent weeks.

If Del Rio can sit down with the offensive coaches and implement some creative tactics that open up the field for Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, the Raiders could make a surprising run despite their rolling into the playoffs with a backup quarterback (Matt McGloin) in tow.

RANK

4

Adam Gase, Dolphins

NR

After stumbling out of the gate to a 1-4 mark, the Dolphins have won nine of their last 10 games on the way to clinching a playoff berth. Gase orchestrated the turnaround with a series of shrewd moves that changed the team's mentality and identity. Inserting Jay Ajayi as the team's RB1 has given the Dolphins' offense some much-needed balance and toughness, as evidenced by his three 200-yard rushing games since Week 6. Meanwhile, Vance Joseph has found a way to get the Dolphins' defense going with Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh leading the way. With the offense and defense clicking on all cylinders, the Dolphins are a legitimate threat to make some noise in the tournament despite leaning on a backup quarterback (Matt Moore) the rest of the season.

RANK

5

Dan Quinn, Falcons

NR

The Falcons are rarely touted as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but teams are beginning to fear the Dirty Birds based on their high-powered offense and rapidly improving defense. Quinn has entrusted Matt Ryan to spark the offense as an efficient playmaker from the pocket. The MVP candidate has helped the unit average 33.5 points, which is nearly 11 points (10.8 to be exact) better than the league average. Most impressive, they've been able to light up scoreboards without the services of a few of their top playmakers each week. Defensively, the Falcons have leaned on their young stalwarts ( Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, and Keanu Neal) to snuff out opponents with their collective speed, quickness and physicality. As the current No. 2 seed in the NFC, Quinn has the Falcons sitting pretty heading into the postseason.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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