NFL Handicapping: Teams With New Coaches A Good Bet
by Robert Ferringo - 7/17/2013
As we surge into late July, there are eight NFL teams taking heading to training camp with a new head coach calling the shots. That’s turnover in one-quarter of the league’s coaching staffs over the last six months, and it means a load of uncertainty heading into the regular season.
If there is one thing that betting markets don’t like it is uncertainty. But does that create opportunities for NFL gamblers?
There have been 66 NFL coaching changes over the last 10 years. That is enough for every franchise to have two head coaches apiece during that span. The number of new head honchos balloons to 74 if you include this year’s crop, meaning that an average of seven jobs per year turn over. And that doesn’t include in-season firings, of which there have been 10 in the last five years alone.
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Add everything up and that is an incredible turn around for NFL franchises. So while doing research to help me rank the eight new NFL head coaches, I decided to see if there was any instant impact from teams bringing in a new head coach. Each new guy generally comes in with his own staff, his own style, his own system and his own direction for the organization. So what were the immediate results of these sea changes?
The answer wasn’t what I thought.
I figured that teams undergoing a coaching change would commonly take a step back before taking a step forward. After all, winning teams and solid organizations generally don’t fire coaches or uproot front offices. So if you take a downtrodden club with a shoddy roster and then shake up the leadership, you would expect a painfulbreaking in period as everyone tries to adjust to the new methods.
I analyzed win-loss records and against the spread data for the last 61 coaching changes made since the end of the 2003 season. I found that 38 of 61 teams actually improved their record under the new regimes. Four teams posted the same record the following season while only 19 clubs actually won fewer games the next year after making a switch.
That means that 42 of 61 clubs (68.8 percent) finished with the same or better record after changing coaches.
Last season was a rare down season for teams under new management. Only four of the eight teams improved their record. But that did include Indianapolis, which added nine wins to its total after going just 2-14 in 2011. In 2011 six of eight teams stayed the same or improved and in 2010 two of three teams managed better records.
In fact, 2012 was the first time in a decade in which there weren’t more teams that maintained or improved their record with a first-time coach.
Over the last decade, 38 teams that increased their win total did so by an average of 3.5 victories per season. That includes some remarkable recent turnarounds like the Colts’ last year (+9 wins), San Francisco in 2011 (+7), and in 2008 when both Atlanta (+7) and Miami (+10) rode their new headmen to the playoffs.
Granted, there are many factors beyond coaching that would help teams increase their win total. First, the bottom teams in the league generally face an easier schedule the next year. They also have access to the best college players thanks to priority draft positioning. Further, things like injuries, turnovers and other volatile and uncontrollable variables can swing a team’s fortune from year to year.
Also, the cellar dwellers generally have nowhere to go but up. So they should win more games the year after bottoming out.
Rather than simply analyzing win-loss records, I also broke down how these teams did against the spread after a coaching overhaul. ATS records are a reflection of performance against expectations and would give a good indicator of each coach’s immediate impact. It would also help minimize some of the alternative reasons for win-loss improvement, which are already concerned by the oddsmakers.
Further, scoping ATS records also helps to limit the outlying impact of coaches who were expected to immediately improve their team’s record.
Again, the numbers suggest that teams that hire a new leader are set for a quick improvement.
Of the 61 teams that I tracked between 2004 and 2012, there were 35 of them that improved their performance at the betting window under their rookie headman. Only 15 teams actually did worse against the spread while 11 teams posted the same record.
Granted, ATS variance is much slimmer than normal win-loss adjustment. NFL teams – from the top to the bottom – usually finish just a game or two above or below .500 against the spread. But teams with new coaches averaged 3.3 more wins against the spread than the year before the coaches’ arrivals.
Also, there have been some spectacular overachievers under first-year leadership. Last year Indianapolis (+6 ATS wins), Tampa Bay (+6) and St. Louis (+8) all posted remarkable turnarounds at the window. Those three teams combined to go 32-15-1 against the spread.
In 2011, Carolina (+5) and San Francisco (+7) were instant moneymakers. And over the past decade 13 of the 35 teams that improved their ATS marks from one year to the next did so by at least four victories.
The 15 teams that did worse at the window averaged just 2.0 fewer cashes with their new man at the helm. But it is unlikely that those teams cost bettors very much since these teams aren’t the type to attract a lot of action in the first place.
But perhaps that’s the point.
Breaking down the ATS data tells me that bettors looking to wager against teams with first-year coaches could be making an expensive mistake. Certainly there will be times to bet against squads under new leadership. But on the whole it’s a losing proposition.
Instead, bettors should be trying to target the teams under new management and determining which ones will be this year’s breakout ATS performers. Gamblers that bought into the Colts last year and the 49ers the year before that were rewarded handsomely for their daring and foresight.
However, before you get too excited about betting on or against new NFL coaches, you should know that over the last 10 years they have combined to go just 534-510-11 ATS. That’s just a 51.1 percent success rate for bettors.
Robert Ferringo thinks that he knows which teams with new head coaches will be this year’s breakout ATS performers. You can find out who he will have his money on by signing up for one of his football packages HERE. Robert has banked over $9,000 for his backers over the last 15 football months and he has posted an outstanding five of six winning NFL seasons. Sign up now and put him to work for you today!
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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