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Belichick named AP Coach of the Year

NEW YORK -- New England's undefeated season now includes yet another achievement: Bill Belichick is The Associated Press 2007 NFL Coach of the Year.

The first coach since Don Shula in 1972 to lead his team through a spotless regular season, Belichick won the award Thursday for the second time in five years. In 2003, the Patriots went 14-2 and won their final 12 games. This time, Belichick's team rampaged through the first part of the schedule, then won a handful of close games on their way to 16-0.

That was enough to offset the major blemish on Belichick's resume: a $500,000 personal fine, $250,000 fine for the team and the loss of a first-round pick in the upcoming draft after the Patriots were caught videotaping New York Jets coaches during the season opener.

Spygate didn't stop 29 of the 50 voters on a nationwide panel of media members who cover the NFL from voting for Belichick. In a season highlighted by many strong coaching performances, Belichick beat out Green Bay's Mike McCarthy, who received 15 votes for leading the Packers to a 13-3 record and the NFC North title.

"Any time we win we're excited," Belichick said after completing the perfect regular season with a 38-35 victory over the New York Giants. "With the success we've had this season, (the Giants) game puts a certain little bit more of a degree of satisfaction in that game because of the culmination of the regular season. But, at the same time, we've got plenty of things that we need to work on."

Also getting votes were Dallas coach Wade Phillips and Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio (two each), and Indianapolis' Tony Dungy and Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden (one each).

The only other Patriots coach to win the award was Belichick's mentor, Bill Parcells, in 1994.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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