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2016 Coach of the Year Odds

I love the Coach of the Year award, particularly in the pre-season. That’s mostly because it’s such an impossible award to predict.

  • In 2012, I selected Mike Mularkey as my pick. That turned out be very, very wrong, but in COTY predicting, it’s win or go home, so swinging for the fences makes sense.
  • In 2013, I selected Sean Payton; unfortunately for him, a playoff berth was not enough to get him Coach of the Year. That honor instead went to Ron Rivera.
  • In 2014, I chose … Jay Gruden. Washington went 4-12.
  • In 2015, I chose Dan Quinn. That looked good after a 6-1 start, but Atlanta finished just 8-8.

The reason this award is so hard to pick is because in some ways, every coach is on an even playing field in week 1. The winner of this award is the one who usually exceeds expectations the most, so there is a natural equalizer in place. Last year’s winner was Ron Rivera, again, as his Panthers went a surprising 15-1 and wildly exceeded expectations.

Below are the current odds for 2016 Coach of the Year, along with each coach’s percent chance of winning the award once you remove the vig: 

RkHead CoachOddsVig-less Perc
1Bruce Arians             15/28.9%
1Mike Zimmer              15/28.9%
3Mike McCarthy            9/17.4%
4Bill Belichick           10/16.7%
4Ron Rivera               10/16.7%
6Pete Carroll             12/15.6%
6Andy Reid                12/15.6%
6Mike Tomlin              12/15.6%
9Gus Bradley              18/13.7%
9Jack Del Rio             18/13.7%
11Marvin Lewis             20/13.3%
12Todd Bowles              25/12.7%
12John Fox                 25/12.7%
14Jason Garrett            33/12%
14Adam Gase                33/12%
14John Harbaugh            33/12%
14Gary Kubiak              33/12%
14Ben McAdoo               33/12%
14Chuck Pagano             33/12%
14Sean Payton              33/12%
14Doug Pederson            33/12%
22Jay Gruden               50/11.3%
22Chip Kelly               50/11.3%
22Bill O'Brien             50/11.3%
22Rex Ryan                 50/11.3%
26Jim Caldwell             66/11%
26Jeff Fisher              66/11%
26Hue Jackson              66/11%
26Dirk Koetter             66/11%
26Mike McCoy               66/11%
26Mike Mularkey            66/11%
26Dan Quinn                66/11%

The heavy favorites are sucker’s bets, I think. After all, the 8 coaches with the best odds are all on returning playoff teams. Jacksonville and Oakland are the sexy sleeper picks this year, so no surprise that Del Rio and Bradley are tied for 9th as the first coaches of non-playoff teams.

But in my opinion, the odds here should be much flatter. So if I was a betting man, I would certainly rather put money on a coach with 50/1 odds or better. But even if I wasn’t getting odds, I think I’m still going with Bill O’Brien this year.   Houston was good last year, but if Brock Osweiler hits, and Jadeveon Clowney turns into a star, O’Brien’s Texans will look very good. I think we’ll see O’Brien getting the bulk of the credit for any success in Houston this year, and he’s as good a choice as any.

Who do you like? A team like Dallas is a great bet to exceed their 2015 wins total, but that is already priced into Jason Garrett’s odds. And I don’t feel too great about any of the other teams with low wins totals from last year. As a result, I think O’Brien is my leader, though Ben McAdoo, Dirk Koetter, and Chip Kelly are intriguing picks, too. And, of course, I can’t really disagree with Vegas on liking Bradley or Del Rio as good bets to improve their team’s 2015 wins total. The problem, I think, is that the Coach of the Year voters are already pricing in improvement, so Bradley, Del Rio, and Garrett are all going to be graded on that curve.

  • Joe Wright

    Mike McCoy would be a strong candidate if the Chargers compete in a wide-open division, especially with the relocation narrative hanging over the team. Of course, that requires you do have confidence that they won’t go 5-11; he might also be a strong “first coach fired” candidate.

    • Agreed on both counts.

  • I’ve always kind of hated the COTY award. It’s neat that they give coaches credit for winning more than we expected them to, but I’d rather see it go to a guy like Bill Belichick who built a great team, set an unreasonably high bar for his team to reach every year, and consistently lived up to the lofty expectations. It feels like, in a way, we’re punishing someone like Belichick (or whatever consistently great coach you pick) for being consistently fantastic at his job.

    • To my point: Ron Rivera now has twice as many COTY awards as Bill Walsh. Vince Lombardi also only has one, and it was a year in which his team went 7-5. Jimmy Johnson won the award when he took the dreadful Cowboys to a 7-9 record, but he didn’t win it after turning them into a powerhouse. That doesn’t feel right to me.

      • Trepur

        One thing I’ve always been meaning to model to see whether it’s not is true is what seems like a positive relationship between winning COTY and getting fired over one of the next five seasons.

        There are tons of instances where this has happened, the and logic of why it happens makes sense. COTY generally goes too the team that exceeded expectations the most, and that generally means the team benefitted from luck, not from good coaching, so with the owner/fans now having an increased expectation for the team (one that was based on improved luck not improved skill) when the coach fails to live up to those expectations (which doing so would require compounding levels of luck), he gets blamed and gets fired.

        Meanwhile the truly great coaches rarely win the award, since their teams are expected to perform well, and it’s much tougher for them to beat expectation.

    • Sure, but picking COTY is a lot of fun.

    • Anders

      GM of the year is the same. In general he wins based on a draft pick or trade a few years back but first wins it the year his team wins

    • Richie

      I kind of feel like Belichick exceeds expectations every year. If his entire roster was playing in Jacksonville, would we still expect it to be a Super Bowl favorite?

      Part of it is because Belichick has an ability to find scrap heap players who can contribute (or, he coaches them up to contribute). So he has a roster full of guys whose names we barely know.

      It’s kind of like how Michael Jordan probably deserved the MVP every year from about 1991-1998 (except when he was playing baseball), but his own success raises the bar for himself.

      • In my mind, Bill Belichick has the COTY award at the beginning of each year and has to lose it before someone else gains it.

        That said, I do like the Arians and Rivera picks lately. I’ve always been impressed with Rivera’s ability to construct and run a defense. Not every coach has the ability to coach a very good 4-3 under Lovie Smith and then coach a good 3-4 under Norv Turner.

  • I pick Hue Jackson. He could outdo most people’s expectations by going 6-10, which isn’t a tall order. And there is at least some possibility that he figures out how to fix Griffin, which would quickly make that team miles better than expectation. Even if he doesn’t, McCown was quietly decent last year. I think it’s likely that they are better off than people think, which just means a few lucky breaks and suddenly he looks like COTY.

    • I think a 9-7 record is necessary. Only one coach has won with a sub.-500 record:


      Getting the Browns from 3-13 to even 7-9 is not going to strike enough people as COTY-worthy. At 8-8, it’s close, but even when Jimmy Johnson won without a winning record, his team still won 6 more games than in Year N-1. That would make 9-7 the floor.

      • I worded that poorly. I did not mean that he would win at 6-10. I just meant that the “exceeding expectations” part should be easy, so he only needs to get the team to play at about that level and then have some good luck. If he can get the team to play like a 6.5-win team and they’re lucky (which would probably have to include a bunch going wrong for the rest of the division), they can be 9-7.

        Looking back at the COTY winners, though, it seems that being a fringe playoff contender is probably not enough to win, so he may not be the best choice. I would be tempted to choose Andy Reid then. Kansas City looks like a really good team with a pretty easy schedule in a weak division, which means they could end up with a gaudy record (14-15 wins) that wins him the award.

  • Kaedwon

    Whatever you do plz don’t pick Doug Pederson.