Dom Capers, who led the Carolina Panthers to the NFC West title in just their second season, was easily voted the NFL Coach of the Year by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Capers received 67 votes and Denver's Mike Shanahan was a distant second with 22 in balloting by a national panel of 93 sports writers conducted by the AP.New England's Bill Parcells, with four votes, was the only other coach named on any ballots. Last year's winner was Ray Rhodes of Philadelphia.

"I derive a lot of satisfaction from being a member of a team," said Capers, the defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh before joining the expansion Panthers in 1995. "We talk all the time on our team about the importance of collective effort and how that's the only way you accomplish anything in this business.

"If there's any individual attention or awards, I certainly attribute that to starting right with our owner, Mr. Richardson; our front office, Mike McCormack, Bill Polian; certainly the coaching staff, because I think we have one of the best staffs; and the players.

"We have a group of quality players who are a pleasure to work with. They set a high standard and they have a great work ethic. They've done everything that we've asked them to do. They understand that in the NFL, nobody gives you anything. You have to go out and earn everything."

The Panthers (12-4) earned a playoff berth earlier than any expansion team in league history. That came after a 7-9 first season that was the best ever.

Capers' defensive schemes, which made the Steelers so stingy in recent years, have been transferred superbly to Carolina.