- Mike McCarthy and Vic Fangio are +750 ‘favorites’ to be the first head coach fired in the 2021 NFL regular season.
- Since 2000, there have been 37 NFL head coaches fired during the regular season.
- Firing a head coach mid season has historically been a ‘last resort’ for a struggling NFL team.
There has always been a cliche in the National Football League that teams shouldn’t fire a head coach mid-season. Sportscasters would suggest that it is a mark of desperation on the part of the team and the ultimate display of disrespect toward the coach being dismissed. Although it *seems* like it is more common now than it was ‘back in the day’ the reality is that there hasn’t been much change over the past 50 years. Given the number of statistical ebbs and flows in other areas of pro football the number of head coaches fired during the regular season on average has shown minimal change.
Going back to the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 there have been a total of 88 mid-season firings which works out to an average of 1.76 per year. Since 2000, there have been 37 mid-season coach firings which works out to 1.76 per season. Don’t forget that in 1970 there were 26 teams. The Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers joined the NFL in 1976, the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars joined in 1995, the Baltimore Ravens joined in 1996 and the Houston Texans completed the current roster of NFL teams in 2002. A few teams have moved from one city to another during the past 50 years and in 1972 the owners of the Baltimore Colts and Los Angeles Rams ‘traded franchises’ but the league hasn’t lost any teams during that timeframe from a numerical standpoint. For those of you interested in trivia, the last NFL team listed as ‘defunct’ was the Dallas Texans (1952).
Whether a mid-season coaching firing in the NFL is ‘desperate’ or ‘disrespectful’ is open to debate. One thing that has been demonstrated statistically is that the move is seldom effective. The polling/data website 538.com looked at mid-season coaching changes between the 2016 and 2020 seasons inclusive. They found that teams put up better numbers after the coaching switch but only marginally so:
538 likened it to a well known phenomenon in the financial markets–the ‘dead cat bounce’:
The financial world has a macabre name for this kind of phenomenon: The “dead cat bounce.” First used in the mid-1980s to describe a temporary rally in oil prices during a long decline, the idea is that while the body of a dead cat might bounce if you drop it from a tall enough building, the bounce doesn’t mean the cat isn’t still dead. It’s since been used to describe similar patterns in all financial markets. But does it also apply to losing NFL teams?
Here’s their assessment of the statistical improvement with a new coach after a mid-season firing from the chart above:
Winning percentage, average total efficiency, per-game scoring and yardage margins, and turnover and time-of-possession margins were all stronger under the interim coaches than the former skippers.
But a dead cat is still a dead cat, and “stronger” is relative. A .396 winning percentage is better than .270, but a team winning 6.3 games in a season won’t make most NFL fanbases much happier than winning 4.3.
They also point out that after a mid-season firing the interim head coach seldom gets the full time job–since 2016 there have been 11 interim head coaches taking over after a mid-season firing. Doug Marrone in Jacksonville is the only one to become the permanent head coach and he went 22-38 in four years before he too was pink slipped.
BetOnline.ag has posted odds on the first NFL head coach to be fired during the 2021 regular season. Here’s the rundown of their numbers followed by a few candidates ripe for early dismissal:
FIRST NFL HEAD COACH TO BE FIRED 2021 SEASON
Mike McCarthy +750 Vic Fangio +750 Matt Nagy +850 Jon Gruden +1000 Mike Zimmer +1100 Kliff Kingsbury +1200 Zac Taylor +1200 David Culley +1600 Matt Rhule +1600 Mike Vrabel +1600 Matt LaFleur +2000 Brian Flores +2500 Frank Reich +2500 John Harbaugh +2500 Kyle Shanahan +2500 Pete Carroll +2500 Sean McVay +2500 Sean Payton +2500 Ron Rivera +2800 Dan Campbell +3300 Joe Judge +4000 Arthur Smith +5000 Brandon Staley +5000 Mike Tomlin +5000 Nick Sirianni +5000 Robert Saleah +5000 Urban Meyer +5000 Kevin Stefanski +10000 Sean McDermott +10000 Bill Belichick +25000 Bruce Arians +25000 Andy Reid +50000
The way the prop is worded means that a coach would have to be fired and not resign. This is a slight concern given the recent rash of NBA teams that have parted company with head coaches due to ‘mutual agreement’. A struggling NFL team seldom gives their head coach the chance to save face in this manner. Furthermore, the stipulations say simply ‘first coach to be fired’. Since we learned above that there’s an average of 1.76 mid-season head coach firings per season I’m assuming that this bet will cash during the 2021 regular season. That doesn’t mean it *has* to. If a head coach gets fired during training camp he’ll be the ‘winner’. If no coaches are fired during the 2021 regular season the first coach to be announced as fired on ‘Black Monday’ would be the winner.
In our next post we’ll try and come up with a few betting positions. Hit the link below: