NFL Coaching Props
by Trevor Whenham - 08/31/2007
NFL head coaches are an interesting breed. They are ego-driven maniacs. As the cliche goes, they get too much credit when things go right, and too much blame when they don't. In many ways their jobs are thankless, but they get paid so much that I don't at all feel bad for them.
Talking about coaches is always interesting, but finding ways to bet on them is even better. Bodog makes it possible. Heading into the start of the season, they have posted odds on head-to-head win total matchups of the new coaches coming into the league. Here's a look at the possibilities:
Bobby Petrino - This is easily the most interesting new coach to think about this year. At this time last year, Petrino was heading into the Big East season with the chance to lead Louisville to an undefeated season. He came within a game of that goal despite potentially crippling injuries, impressively won the Orange Bowl, and raised his value on the coaching market significantly. Then he jumped at a dream job. A talented, incredibly mobile franchise quarterback who has underachieved is the kind of thing that can make a coach a legend if he can turn him around. And there was a truckload full of cash, too.
But then this little thing about dogfighting came along. Michael Vick and his sky-high potential suddenly became Joey Harrington and his trail of disappointment. Understandably, the public jumped off the Falcons like rats off a sinking ship. That's likely a good instinct, but it could also be an opportunity. Harrington has looked good in the preseason, so he could outperform expectations. The other thing is that Petrino is a pretty good coach, and he has instilled a professional, winning attitude that was certainly lacking last year. Depending on your view, Petrino could do better than expected. Here are his props:
Petrino +0.5(-105) vs. Cam Cameron -0.5(-135) - Cameron is the clear favorite in his first year as a head coach. It's an interesting matchup because Cameron unsuccessfully interviewed for Atlanta before taking the Miami gig. It's also interesting that Petrino's quarterback was unceremoniously dumped by Miami after a disastrous 6-10 record last year. Miami has a long way to come back from the sad year they had last year, and Atlanta was actually a little better at 7-9. Petrino has a more illustrious resume than Cameron, and is certainly more highly regarded coming into the head coaching ranks. Cameron has no clear advantage at quarterback despite ditching Harrington as Trent Green is not only old, but he is looking his age. I'm not saying by any means that Petrino is a lock, or even a good bet. I'm just not at all convinced Cameron is good value at the price. Agree or disagree?
Petrino -110 vs. Lane Kiffin -130 - Under normal circumstances this would be an insult to Petrino. Kiffin is the youngest coach in the league, and many would argue that he's too young. He certainly wasn't prominent on the coaching radar before he was hired in Oakland. He comes into the season with big questions at quarterback, a draft pick that may never sign, a shocking lack of proven receivers, and a generally inept offense. He should have a pretty solid defense, but so did the Raiders last year, and that only earned them two wins. I'm pretty pessimistic about Atlanta, but I am really pessimistic about Oakland. At the very least, I don't see much value on Kiffin.
The other matchups:
Ken Whisenhunt (-120) vs. Cameron (-120) - This comes down to whether you have drank the Arizona kool-aid. The Cards were just 5-11 last year, but they have an entirely new and much needed coaching staff, a more experienced quarterback, and an improved offensive line. Some people seem to think that that is enough to get them into the payoffs. I'm not sure I buy that (actually I'm pretty sure I don't), but I do think that they will be significantly improved. They are certainly in the right hands under the guidance of Whisenhunt. If the Cards were to make the playoffs then a bet on Whisenhunt would likely be the winner here. That means that I would lean towards him.
Mike Tomlin -1.5(-130) vs. Whisenhunt +1.5(-110) - If you are bullish on the Cardinals then this is a good place to grab some value. Tomlin was a surprising hire, but one that has conducted himself well so far. He's a professional, and despite the fact that many of his players are practically his age he has managed to implement a tough practice routine for the team and avoid any public rebellion over it. The potential value, then, comes not from thinking that the Steelers can't win a lot of games, but rather if you think that Arizona can win enough games that it would be unlikely for Pittsburgh to win two more games to make this bet pay off.
Tomlin +1(-110) vs. Norv Turner -1(-130) - Turner may be the luckiest guy ever. Despite a far less than stellar coaching record, Turner was handed the keys to a team featuring the best player in the league and perhaps the most explosive offense. This isn't about rebuilding, it's about tweaking. If you believe that the Chargers magic hasn't faded significantly, then it makes sense that they will win at least one more game than the Steelers. The question is whether it's worth a bet at this price.
Turner -1(-140) vs. Wade Phillips +1(EVEN) - Everything I said about Turner vs. Tomlin applies here. Dallas could, and probably should, be as good or better than their 9-7 record of last year. San Diego will likely not be quite as good as their 14-2 of last year, but the question is how much. Dallas would have to get a lot better and/or San Diego would have to get a lot worse in order for a bet on Phillips to win. I'm not convinced that that is likely.
Tomlin +0.5(-130) vs. Phillips -0.5(-110) - This is probably the most evenly matched of all of the matchups. Both teams had decent records, but they were flawed. Both teams should be better than they were last year. They both have talented quarterbacks who should have improved, more consistent seasons. They both have reasonably talented rosters. Given the prices on the two coaches, there may be a bit more value in Phillips, but a solid case could be built for either depending upon your viewpoint.