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NFL Coach of the Year Candidates

August 6, 2021
Who Will be 2021 Coach of the Year?

If you’re searching for a solid NFL Coach of the Year wager, consider the following. Three of the last four Coaches of the Year were first-year guys with a new team. Last year, it was Cleveland’s Kevin Stefanski who was finally able to do something with a Browns roster that has been built for multiple playoff runs.

In 2018 it was Matt Nagy who led the Bears to a 12-4 record and the NFC North title. Sean McVay won it in 2017 at the ripe age of 30 leading the Rams to the NFC West title. He would take the Rams to the Super Bowl the following year.

Who will it be in 2021? Urban Meyer? Robert Saleh? There are seven new head coaches in the NFL this season. Not surprisingly, one of them is favored to win this year’s Coach of the Year award.

No Repeats

It is extremely rare to have a repeat winner in the NFL COTY race. In fact, the last time it happened was in 1982 and 1983. Joe Gibbs led Washington an 8-1 record in a strike-shortened ’82 season and followed it up with 14-2 mark in ’83. 

Gibbs took both teams to the Super Bowl beating Miami in the first one and losing to the Los Angeles Raiders in the second. Since the COTY award has been handed out (1957), there have been only three repeat winners. Gibbs, of course, Allie Sherman in 1961-62, and the legendary Don Shula who shared the award with George Allen in 1967 and then won it outright in 1968 as the head coach of the Colts.

That is bad news for Stefanski who is one of three atop the current sportsbook betting board at +1300.  Could he break the cycle? 

The San Francisco Set Up

In 2019, Kyle Shanahan took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. Last year, Shanahan and his team suffered through a six-win campaign. Much of that was due to a multitude of injuries. The 49ers were the only team in the NFL with more than 300 games lost due to injury.

Despite missing several key pieces of their offensive and defensive lineups, the 49ers were a top-5 team in net yards per play (+0.7). With all of their starters back and healthy, there is plenty of optimism in the Bay Area. The 49ers, by virtue of their record last year, will play one of the easier schedules in the league. That makes Shanahan a great bet at +1300.

Staley Fits the Bill

After the Chargers went 7-9 last season, they dumped head coach Anthony Lynn in favor of former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. All Staley did was captain the NFL’s best defense in 2020. Now, he takes that to the Chargers, a top 10 defense a year ago.

The Chargers were ninth against the pass (223.6 ypg) and 10th overall in total defense. They have one of the best pass rushers in the league in Joey Bosa and another weapon in SS Derwin James Jr. The offense is led by NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert who led the NFL’s sixth-best passing offense (270.6 ypg). 

What Staley would have to do to win the COTY this season is simple. Over the past 30 years, only one – Bruce Arians in 2013 – coach failed to post fewer than 10 wins. Staley is a solid candidate at +1300, but his Chargers are going to have to produce in order for him to win.

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Other Contenders

Brian Flores (+1400) has the Dolphins on the cusp of something great. The defense is solid and Tua Tagovailoa leads an offense that got markedly better the offense with the addition of William Fuller V and the drafting of former Alabama star Jaylen Waddle. 

McVay (+1400) is also a contender now that he has Matthew Stafford under center instead of Jared Goff. Ron Rivera (+1600) led Washington to the playoffs last season and the defense is outstanding.

Farther down the board is another first-year coach, Arthur Smith of the Atlanta Falcons. Smith’s offense in Tennessee last season was one of the league’s best. He’ll have Matt Ryan at quarterback and Calvin Ridley and rookie Kyle Pitts to throw to. At +1800, Smith offers a nice payout, but Atlanta winning 10 games may be a stretch.

Of the remaining first-year coaches, only the Jets Saleh (+2000) is given odds shorter than +3300.