- Every betting interest on the NFL Coach of the Year futures board is priced at double digit odds.
- Kevin Stefanski was the 2020 winner in his first year as coach of the Cleveland Browns.
- The last repeat Coach of the Year winner was Joe Gibbs in 1982 and 1983.
In our previous article we provided background on the various ‘Coach of the Year’ awards throughout the history of the NFL focusing specifically on what is now the de facto ‘official’ award, the AP Coach of the Year. In addition, we tried to reverse engineer previous winners and the voting process to try and find some technical concepts to work with. Finally, we took positions on two coaches. I’ll give those again at the end of this article but you’re welcome to go read it yourself:
In this article, we’ll dig deeper into the Coach of the Year futures betting field and look for value priced coaches that fit the ‘template’ of previous winners. Apropos of the Belmont Stakes coming up on Saturday we’ll co-opt a strategy from horse players and ‘draw a line’ through a few candidates that are unlikely to win for a variety of reasons. One of these is favorite Brandon Staley (+1000). I’m going to throw him out for a few reasons–most importantly, he’s taking over the team with too much talent on hand. The Chargers were 12-4 in 2018 and many of their problems left town when former head coach Anthony Lynn was fired. They had to replace longtime starting quarterback Philip Rivers and did so with almost too much ease–rookie Justin Hebert stepped in and was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. 8 of the Chargers 9 losses a year ago were by 10 points or less. While some of that can be blamed on Anthony Lynn’s playcalling–and inability to coach with a lead–much of that is good old fashioned variance. If the Chargers get a few bounces and win half of their close losses they finish 11-5 and Anthony Lynn keeps his job. The Chargers also had an abysmal special teams unit–Football Outsiders ranked it as the third worst NFL special teams that they’d ever ranked–and this is something that can be fixed. Given all that Staley has to work with there’s just no value taking him at the bargain basement price.
Given the rarity of repeat winners in the AP COY we’ll draw a line through 2020 winner Kevin Stefanski. We talked about Brian Flores in our previous article. Sean McVey and Bruce Arians have too much talent on hand. How does Ariens top a Super Bowl win anyway? Arthur Smith has some interest but in my view the Falcons aren’t a quick enough fix for them to improve too much but at the same time they’re not enough of a grease fire that he’d get kudos for incremental improvement. Sean McDermott we talked about in our previous article. Andy Reid has arguably the best player in football in Patrick Mahomes, a ton of talent around him and won the Super Bowl in 2020. If he didn’t get the COY award that year (John Harbaugh did) there’s nothing he can do to win this year. Bill Belichick is a three time winner and I sure don’t see voters giving him #4 which would put him in a tie with Don Shula for most ever. John Harbaugh has plenty of talent on hand and a team that went 11-5 last year. He may be ‘pound for pound’ the best coach in the NFL but he won’t win this award because there’s not enough of a ‘reclamation story’.
Kyle Shanahan has a shot if he could get some dramatic improvement out of the San Francisco 49ers but his price isn’t high enough for me to be interested. If Indianapolis shows considerable improvement this year the credit will go to newly acquired QB Carson Wentz, not head coach Frank Reich. Joe Judge is considered one of the worst coaches in the league and the Giants need a lot of work. Matt Rhule is a better head coach but the Panthers are a longterm rebuild. Not sure they can do enough in 2021 to get Rhule in the running. Robert Saleh might end up being a good NFL head coach but hard to see him doing *anything* with the Jets this year. Ron Rivera is an excellent head coach that is already showing improvement in Washington. The problem for this award is that it tends to favor dramatic turnarounds and adversity and Rivera’s overhaul is ‘slow and steady’. Mike McCarthy, Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton and Matt LaFleur have too much talent on hand for the requisite ‘turnaround angle’. LaFleur has a longshot chance if Aaron Rodgers leaves but I’d want him at a higher price than +2500.
There’s a perception that Urban Meyer is an arrogant prick. I have no idea if he is or isn’t, but the perception is enough to keep him from winning this award. Kliff Kingsbury is arguably the worst game manager in the NFL but he’s got some bigtime talent on his team. I was surprised that Mike Vrabel didn’t get more support for COY last year. He took a castoff quarterback in Ryan Tannehill and a punishing running back in Travis Henry to a record of 11-5 and gave Baltimore a good fight in their playoff matchup. The situation sets up well for Vrabel. Pete Carroll is the best NFL coach to never win this award. A Super Bowl run could give it to him. Jon Gruden has a brand name and not much more. The Bears have never had a losing season under Matt Nagy but I still have no clue if he’s a good coach. Mike Zimmer is a good coach coming off a disappointing year (7-9). He’s never really gotten the credit when the Vikings do well but at this price he’s ‘best of class’. No clue about new Philly coach Nick Sirianni, new Lions coach Dan Campbell or new Texans coach David Culley. Zac Taylor and Vic Fangio are arguably the two worst coaches in the NFL.
Got all of that? So we’ll take the two positions from our previous article and the only three coaches that we didn’t ‘draw a line through’ here and cash a nice hefty ticket should any of them win: