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NFL Coach of the Year rankings: Jason Garrett gets top billing

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 15.

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

Credit the Cowboys' ultra-cool coach for deftly handling a burgeoning quarterback controversy. Garrett not only supported his young signal caller, but he helped the offense craft a game plan that helped Dak Prescott regain his rhythm as a passer. With the 12-2 Cowboys sitting atop the NFC behind a pair of rookie offensive playmakers and an underrated defense, Garrett deserves top billing at this point of the season.

The ex-NFL linebacker helped the Raiders clinch their first playoff berth since 2002 through his aggressive game plan and calculated gambles. Whether it's going for it on fourth down or dialing up a critical two-point conversion, Del Rio has pushed all of the right buttons to get Oakland into prime position to earn the AFC West crown and a first-round bye. Moreover, he has molded a young, athletic squad into a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

The Patriots have claimed the AFC East crown for the eighth straight season behind Belichick's tough-love approach. The wily head coach has not only unleashed a dynamic offense that torments opponents with a physical running game and dink-and-dunk aerial attack, but he has quietly put together a stingy defense that's only allowing 16.6 points per game ( tops in the league). Considering how the unsung unit has done it without star power, Belichick deserves every accolade for pulling rabbits out of the hat in Foxborough.

Reid drops down the list following a home loss to the Titans. This setback, which dropped K.C. out of first place in the AFC West, was partially due to an unsuccessful "freeze out" maneuver that allowed Ryan Succop to nail a game-winner at the buzzer. While that tactic didn't work out for Reid, he continues to earn high marks for his creative utilization of Tyreek Hill on offense. Reid has helped the versatile playmaker energize the offense by deploying him as running back, receiver and returner on an assortment of traditional and gadget plays designed to get the big-play threat the ball on the perimeter.

The Titans' surprising revival lands Mularkey on the list this week, with his squad tied with Houston atop the AFC South. Mularkey has ignited the surge by accelerating the development of his franchise quarterback, Marcus Mariota, with clever schemes and power-based complementary running game. With his trusted partner Dick LeBeau building a menacing defense, Tennessee suddenly looks like a legitimate playoff contender heading down the stretch.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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