It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Hooded One will win Coach of the Year this year. I suppose it's debatable whether Spygate should affect the voting, but honestly, it's not really a very interesting debate. Great coaches often get passed over for this award because it typically goes to some schmo whose team sucked last year. Gary Horton thinks Billy should win, and lists Tony Dungy as the number two choice.
The coaching subplot is one of the more interesting ones in this season on a fulcrum. Whereas most Colts fans (and I think most NFL fans) think Manning is the better QB in the whole Manning/Brady war, no one would rate as a better coach right now than Bill Belichick. The reason is that for a coach, winning and winning Super Bowls is ALL that matters. QBs win or lose with their teammates and can't be blamed for the mistakes of others. Coaches, however, control so much, that when some one has a coaching record like Darth Hoodie, there really is no debate as to his greatness. So that brings us to Tony Dungy's place in history. His regular season numbers are unparrelled among active coaches, and another Super Bowl would elevate him to a new stratosphere. But how does he compare to Belichick?
I think the argument can be made that if Bill's gamble to remake his team as a pass happy deep ball club, who takes no rest during the regular season results in a 19-0 season, it will be the greatest coaching accomplishment in history. If, however, bad weather, old legs that plowed through one too many meaningless games and fourth quarters, and a one dimensional club leads to him getting beat in the playoffs, this season will go down as one of the poorest in terms of decision making in recent history. If the Pats lose and the Colts win the Super Bowl, strong arguments can be formed that Dungy will have surpassed Belichick as the preeminent coach in the NFL. If the Pats win out, that question is very clearly decided.
Demond Sanders: I think people may look back and wonder why the Pats thought they could so easily replace Corey Dillon's 13 touchdowns in 2006. If they slip up the question will be asked over and over. I guess Belichick thought Sammy Morris could play a big role, but he got hurt. Maroney's play is going to be one of the more interesting storylines in January. Maybe he'll pull a JD Drew and actually surprise us in the postseason, but I doubt it.
To address your point about Dungy and Belichick, I think there are a number of legacy issues that are about to be decided. Colts vs Pats. Moss vs Harrison (vs. Owens?). Manning vs Brady. This decade will be defined by what takes place.