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Chicago's Matt Nagy picked by AP writers top coach in 2018

(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

By JOSH DUBOW

AP Pro Football Writer

Matt Nagy is making an impressive first impression as an NFL head coach.

Nagy has helped develop second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky into a solid NFL starter, convinced Vic Fangio to stay on as defensive coordinator, and has the Chicago Bears in position to earn their first playoff berth since 2010 in his first year on the job.

For doing all that, Nagy was picked as having done the NFL's best coaching job in 2018 in voting released Friday by a panel of 10 football writers for The Associated Press.

Nagy received seven of the 10 first-place votes for his work leading the Bears (9-4) to the top of the NFC North behind an improved offense led by Trubisky and a fierce defense spearheaded by preseason acquisition Khalil Mack.

"(Nagy's) overseen a total turnaround of the Bears in just his first year as an NFL head coach, taking a team that hadn't finished above .500 since 2012 and turning them into the best of the NFC North," said Washington-based Howard Fendrich, who voted Nagy first. "He's an offensive guru who learned from former boss Andy Reid, and Chicago's play calling has been creative and fun - and overcome limitations at the QB spot to be good enough to let a superb defense lead the way."

Seattle's Pete Carroll finished second in the voting for rebuilding the Seahawks on the fly following the departure of most key members from the Super Bowl-winning Legion of Boom defense.

The Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win this week despite losing key players Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril in the past year. Star safety Earl Thomas has also been sidelined most of the season, but it hasn't slowed down the Seahawks.

"For the second time, Carroll is retooling Seattle's roster," said New York-based Barry Wilner, who voted Carroll second behind Nagy. "Yet he's somehow improved the team in the first year of that rebuild. This is a textbook case of a coaches' heavy influence on a club's success."

Carroll finished second despite not getting a first-place vote. The other coaches named No. 1 on ballots were Indianapolis first-year coach Frank Reich, who got one vote, and New England's Bill Belichick, who got two.

Reich, who has helped a healthy Andrew Luck regain his top form, finished eighth overall. He wasn't even the top choice for the Colts, only getting the job after Josh McDaniels backed out shortly after Reich won the Super Bowl as offensive coordinator in Philadelphia.

"He took a team that went 4-12 last year, worked through a rough 1-5 start that could've easily turned into another losing season, and has them in playoff contention," said Philadelphia-based Rob Maaddi, who voted Reich first. "Reich's success in Indy coupled with Philadelphia's offensive misery since his departure after the Super Bowl prove his value."

Belichick, who has a record five Super Bowl titles, finished in ninth place despite getting two first-place votes. Some voters believed this year wasn't his best coaching job, but he still had strong support from others.

"Despite the "Miami Miracle", he has the Patriots on the verge of a 10th consecutive division title," New York-based Simmi Buttar said. "Aside from quarterback of course, this is hardly the most talented roster in Foxborough, yet it would surprise no one if they once again reached the Super Bowl."

Belichick was one of seven coaches named as a top 10 coach on all 10 ballots, joining Nagy, Carroll, third-place Andy Reid of Kansas City, fifth-place Sean McVay of the Rams, sixth-place Bill O'Brien of Houston, and seventh-place Sean Payton of New Orleans.

Reid had the Chiefs tied for the most wins in the league through Week 14 after targeting quarterback Pat Mahomes in the 2017 draft and then cutting ties with longtime starter Alex Smith in the offseason to give Mahomes a chance.

Mahomes has thrown a league-high 45 TD passes and is the latest quarterback to thrive under Reid's tutelage.

"Sure, the Chiefs were expected to be good this year, but Reid went all in with Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback - and this year's squad could be the veteran coach's best chance at a Super Bowl since his days in Philadelphia," New York-based Dennis Wazsak Jr. said.

The Chargers' Anthony Lynn was on nine of 10 ballots and finished fourth overall, while John Harbaugh of Baltimore came in 10th place.

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The rankings:

1. Matt Nagy, Bears

2. Pete Carroll, Seahawks

3. Andy Reid, Chiefs

4. Anthony Lynn, Chargers

5. Sean McVay, Rams

6. Bill O'Brien, Texans

7. Sean Payton, Saints

8. Frank Reich, Colts

9. Bill Belichick, Patriots

10. John Harbaugh, Ravens

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Updated December 14, 2018

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