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Handicapping The First NFL Head Coach To Be Fired Futures Bet

James Murphy
by in NFL on
  • 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.

In our previous post we talked about mid-season head coach firings in the NFL and looked at the odds from BetOnline.ag for the first head coach to be fired in the 2021 season. In this post, we’ll try to come up with a few betting positions. Before we get started here’s the rundown of the odds:


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

If you missed the first part of this article you can read it at the link below:



The first place to start handicapping a prop like this is to ‘draw a line’ through the coaches that are not likely to be fired. This would include coaches for winning teams in all but the rarest of circumstances. It would also include first year head coaches–it is extremely rare in any sport for management to throw a head coach under the bus without giving him a full season to see what he can (or can’t) do. For that reason, I’d scratch Arthur Smith, Dan Campbell, Urban Meyer, Brandon Staley, Robert Saleh and Nick Sirianni. David Culley is a special case that we’ll discuss in a moment. Were this bet worded as ‘first head coach to leave’ Urban Meyer would have some interest–there’s always a chance that he could decide that he’s not cut out for coaching in the NFL and look to return to a high profile college program. Finally, keep in mind that Baltimore, Chicago and Pittsburgh haven’t made an in-season coaching change since the NFL/AFL merger. The Ravens have never fired a coach mid-season while Chicago and Pittsburgh haven’t done so since the early 1940s. John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin aren’t going to be fired, let alone fired mid-season. Chicago’s historical reticence to fire a coach mid-season is going to make me take a pass on Matt Nagy who otherwise fits the profile. Besides, he offers little value at the price.



There’s a reason McCarthy is co-favorite here. You’re not going to see a head coach get a rope as long as Jason Garrett who was just good enough to keep his job for a decade. Dallas has always been associated with long term coaches due in large part to the iconic Tom Landry who prowled the sidelines for 29 seasons. In actuality, Landry and Garrett are the only two Dallas head coaches to make it past their fifth season. The Cowboys are built to win now yet couldn’t win–or even finish with a winning record–in a historically bad NFC East. Jerry Jones is paying his skill position players a lot of money led by Dak Prescott’s $40 million per and isn’t getting any younger. I didn’t like the McCarthy hire when it happened and I like it even less now. That being said, Dallas has only made one mid-season head coaching change in franchise history–Wade Phillips in 2010–and that took a 1-7 start by a team that had gone 11-5 the previous year. There might not be any team in the league as mindful of tradition as the Cowboys so McCarthy will likely make it to the end of the season no matter how bad things get. At the relatively short price I’d rather have co-favorite Vic Fangio.


Along with Zac Taylor, Fangio is arguably the worst head coach in the NFL. The difference is that the Broncos have significantly higher expectations than the Bengals. Between 2011 and 2016, the Broncos had a regular season record of 96-29 with a pair of AFC Championships and a Super Bowl win. John Fox went 46-18 for a .719 winning percentage (2011-2014) and Gary Kubiak went 21-11 (2015-2016). Since then Vance Joseph (2017-2018) and Vic Fangio (2019-present) have combined for a 23-41 record. Fangio was hired as a ‘defensive guru’ but the Broncos’ defense has regressed despite being loaded with talent. Fangio has been a NFL coach since 1986 but this is his first head coaching job. For an otherwise highly regarded assistant to get so deep in his career and *not* have been offered a head coaching gig is a ‘tell’ and not a good one. There’s a new GM in Denver and George Paton might be quick to dump an underachieving head coach not hired on his watch. Adding to the volatile mix in the 303–the Broncos are likely going to be sold since the Pat Bowlen Trust has $3.2 billion reasons to do so.


Owner Mike Brown is the son of the legendary Paul Brown and has controlled the team since his dad’s death in 1991. Since former head coach Marvin Lewis kept his gig for 16 seasons there’s a perception that Brown is loyal to his coaches and patient in his expectations for a quick turnaround. That’s not really the case. Lewis was a pretty solid coach despite never taking the Bengals past the wild card playoffs. Brown definitely let him hang on too long at the end of his career but from 2009 to 2015 the Bengals won three divisional titles in the brutally tough AFC North and reached the playoffs 6 times in 7 seasons. Before that, however, no Bengals head coach had made it past year five during Mike Brown’s ownership. He fired Dave Shula in 1996 after a 1-6 start and Bruce Coslet resigned three games into the 2000 season. Dick LeBeau is one of the best defensive coordinators in NFL history but like Fangio didn’t have the chops to be a head coach. Brown is considered to be neck and neck with Jerry Jones for the worst owner/GM in the NFL. Like him or not, Jones has three Super Bowl championships and the Cowboys were an absolute juggernaut during the 1990s. One thing that Brown did get right was taking former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the top pick in the 2020 draft–only to watch as Burrow damn near got his leg ripped off 10 games into his rookie year. Burrow tore his left ACL and MCL and also suffered partial tears to his PCL and meniscus. Burrow has the skills and mental game to be a superstar but not if the Bengals offensive line can’t protect him. Throw in a porous defense and a 6-25-1 record in two seasons and there isn’t much to suggest that the team has improved much under Taylor. Brown won’t give Taylor the opportunity to throw Burrow to the wolves again and if the team doesn’t show marked improvement right out of the gate he could be gone.


You can add David Culley to the list of ‘longtime assistants getting their first head coaching gig’ a la Vic Fangio. Culley has been a coach on the offensive side of the ball since 1978 at the college level and 1994 at the NFL level. Andy Reid thought enough of Culley that he worked on his staff for over a decade following the portly head coach from Philadelphia to Kansas City. Culley is a bright guy–even as a football player they don’t let you into Vanderbilt unless you’ve got some candlepower upstairs. The problem is there’s not much to suggest that he’s got the right makeup to be a head coach. Mark Ingram played for Culley in Baltimore and likes him but that’s not the problem. The bigger issue is everything else about the grease fire that is the Houston Texans beginning with the status of Deshaun Watson–legally and professionally. Watson has demanded a trade which might be irrelevant due to his ongoing legal problems. He could end up on the commissioner’s exempt list and suspended with pay until Roger Goodell determines he could return. There are some observers that think he won’t play in a NFL game until at least 2023. Culley also has philosophical differences with offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, a holdover from former coach Bill O’Brien’s staff. Tyrod Taylor isn’t a bad quarterback but the team’s receiving corps is substandard, the defense is porous and the team squandered way too many draft picks in trades. Then there’s the situation with recently retired QB Josh McCown–by all accounts he’d be an excellent coach and there’s talk that he’s the Texans ‘head coach in waiting’. His hire was called a ‘head scratcher’ and there are suggestions that no one else wanted it. Then there’s this observation from CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora:

“Godspeed. Poor guy has to wait til his mid-60s to get his first shot and he does it with he Texans at the worst possible time. All kinds of palace intrigue, a coach-in-waiting (Josh McCown) hanging around, an awful roster and a rookie GM who comes from New England, where casting aside someone after just one year is never not an option. Oh, and they are at war with their franchise QB who may end up suspended for quite some time for the various allegations against him. Brutal.”


LaFleur shouldn’t be on this list. All he’s done in two seasons as head coach of the Packers is drop a pair of 13-3 seasons winning the NFC North and reaching the NFC Championship game. The problem for LaFleur is outside of his control but could set him up as a scapegoat. Aaron Rodgers is threatening to opt out/retire/host Jeopardy if he’s not traded. He was steamed about the selection of Utah State QB Jordan Love and there’s really no way to repair the damage to his relationship with GM Brian Gutekunst who is refusing to trade Rodgers. Gutekunst is the guy Rodgers has a beef with but the GM has the backing of Green Bay President and CEO Mark Murphy. LaFleur isn’t the issue at all but should the reigning NFL MVP walk there will be repercussions and someone will take the fall. Gutekunst has been with the Packers organization since 1998 starting as a scout. Mark Murphy has been the President/CEO since 2007. LaFleur came over from the Tennessee Titans in January 2019. You do the math.


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