As the pre-season looms closer and teams start to take shape I wanted to look at a popular market where the entire field can be taken at odds of +1600 or bigger.
Coach of the Year is a tough nut to crack but it can be a rewarding one and there are some historical trends which can set us on the right path.
In the last twenty years it has taken an average of 12 wins to be considered for the award and all of the winning coaches have led their team to at least a wildcard spot in the playoffs. Wins above expectation (which we can see from regular-season win total quotes) and wins without a star franchise QB can also be extremely valuable. This is logical when you consider that success of teams like the Bucs and Chiefs will largely be credited to their signal callers. Another trait that often helps coaches is the ability to overcome an extensive injury list; but given that none of us have a crystal ball which will tell us which teams will be hit by the injury bug I think we need to stick to what we can more accurately estimate.
So if we look at the current playoff odds and pick the teams that are considered odds-on, and then try to eliminate the teams with a widely acknowledged franchise QB, a few teams leap out. I think given the slight down year that Dak Prescott had last year we can include the Cowboys on our list, the 49ers fit the bill as do the Ravens, Colts, Eagles and Titans. We can throw in the Vikings and Saints as well as teams with a reasonable playoff shout according to the current odds. That gives us a quarter of the league in our initial sample. No coach has ever won the award back to back; given the fact it is awarded by the associated press there must be some unconscious bias here, and over a large sample I'm willing to use this data to eliminate Mike Vrabel, albeit I think he is an excellent coach.
So our shortlist of coaches are as follows, these are ordered by the likelihood of the team making the playoffs:
- Mike McCarthy (Cowboys) +5000
- Kyle Shanahan (49ers) +2000
- John Harbaugh (Ravens) +2500
- Frank Reich (Colts) +2000
- Nick Sirianni (Eagles) +1800
- Kevin O'Connell (Vikings) +2000
- Dennis Allen (Saints) +3000
Best NFL Coach of the Year Picks
At this point it's worth pointing out that some of these coaches have a wider route to success than others. Take Mike McCarthy, his team is expected to win the division and therefore an 11-6 run to a wildcard spot is unlikely to see the award headed to the Dallas head coach at the end of the season. Realistically, against expectations heading into the season I think Harbaugh, O'Connell and Allen are the coaches who could win this award even if they end up as a sixth or seventh playoff seed. Recency has also favoured new hires with three of the last five winners being first year head coaches; technically only O'Connell fits that bill as Allen had a short, unsuccessful spell with the Raiders but I think that given the time elapsed since then we can give Allen similar status here as a 'new' head coach.
It's for this reason that from this list I like Dennis Allen (Saints) at odds of +3000 to be Coach of the Year. His team are expected to be on the edge of playoff contention with a win total of Under/Over 8.5. They have a middle tier Quarterback in Jameis Winston who is capable of great upside, but I think they have enough quality players at the non-skill positions that could lead them to a 10-12 win season in a division containing two teams with lower expectations in the Panthers and Falcons. I see this bet as a much more lucrative way of getting with the Saints than taking them to make the playoffs at +130, or winning the division at +450.
Despite my earlier sentiment about Mike McCarthy (Cowboys) I think the odds of +5000 are enough to make him my next best bet in this market. McCarthy's Super Bowl win in Green Bay is seen as a reflection of the great Aaron Rodgers rather than his own work, but I don't think Dak Prescott is held in quite the same regard. If the Cowboys can work their way to the number one seed in the NFC I think McCarthy has a strong case for this award, and I'm getting five times the price on the Cowboy's chances of doing just that.
As a couple of bigger-priced speculative tickets to add to your NFL portfolio I think you could do much worse than these two.