NFL Handicapping: Impact of Coaching Changes
by Trevor Whenham - 1/9/2014
The coaching carousel is spinning as wildly as ever this year in the NFL. Seven coaching changes have been made already, and there is no guarantee that we are done yet. Only three of the seven positions have been filled — a surprisingly glacial pace that shows no major signs of speeding up in any hurry. While there will be plenty of time to dissect the specific hires and what they mean for the teams, I want to take a higher-level look from a betting perspective now.
As we start to shift from the playoffs into futures betting for next season in a few weeks, the coaching changes will have a major impact on how these teams are perceived. Let’s look at what’s on the line for each team and what impact each hire could have:
Cleveland Browns: What a mess. This team obviously wasn’t happy with just being one of the biggest jokes in the league. They wanted to put that distinction out of reach of the rest of the league, and firing Rob Chudzinski after one rough season that wasn’t close to his fault was a great step in that direction. It’s chaos, and I have yet to read or hear one person support this move. Unless the team pulls off a major home run in this new hire — and outside of stealing Bill Belichick from the Patriots, I don’t know what a sufficient home run would look like — this move is only going to further turn the public off and further inflate the futures odds.
Detroit Lions: In my eyes this is the best job available, and it’s not even close. They have good owners and great facilities. The quarterback is young and talented, and if he finds some focus he could be deadly. They have the best receiver on the planet and plenty of other talent. The division is solid-but-not-overwhelming at the moment. If they pull off a decent hire — and the names that are floating around as likely would qualify as such — then this is going to be a team to watch, and I suspect that the public knows it.
Houston Texans: Gary Kubiak had a good run, but after all this time a change was definitely needed. Landing Bill O’Brien, the biggest prize on the market this year outside of the ongoing untouchables like Cowher and Gruden, was a major coup. That should have the public fired up for next year. They have a lot of talent and a solid defense, so they are all but certain to improve significantly from this mess of a season. At this point, though, the evaluation of the team is incomplete until we get a sense of what the QB situation will look like. O’Brien needs to get lucky to be able to live up to expectations.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings are just one of those anonymous teams in the league. Outside of Adrian Peterson, people just don’t know too much about them. Most don’t even care. They have ongoing QB issues. They have some nice players but far from a surplus of talent. They are going to be playing in a borrowed building for a bit while they wait for their new home to be ready. A new coach may or may not be able to make some decent progress out of the gate next year, but I don’t think that the public is going to care in the futures market either way. Outside of the state of Minnesota, this team just isn’t on anyone’s radar.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: There are coaches I have liked a lot more than Lovie Smith over the last decade. That being said, he was pretty much exactly what was needed in Tampa Bay. I give the Bucs credit for thinking outside the box and swinging for the fences with their last two coaching hires before this one. Neither Morris nor Schiano worked out, though, so it was time to go in the other direction. Smith’s upside sits well below the clouds, but there is very little risk in the hire. He personifies stability, and the team is going to make solid strides forward next year. It’s a good move, and the public will respond accordingly.
Tennessee Titans: Mike Munchak didn’t deserve to go, and the conditions of his departure — he was offered a big raise if he was willing to make major staff changes but fired when he wouldn’t — are concerning. If the new coach can figure out the secret of keeping Jake Locker healthy then they are going to have some success. As long as they make a good, reasonable hire there could be some value in these Titans as a longshot in the futures market.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins landed Jay Gruden — the hot coordinator on the market this year. His reputation is one of an offensive genius, and though it barely counts, he does have head coaching experience in both the Arena Football League and the UFL. There are some knocks — Andy Dalton hasn’t exactly turned into a clutch performer under his tutelage, and Marvin Lewis is far from my top choice as a mentor. Still, it’s a bit of a coup landing the guy everyone wanted. But can Gruden tame the beast that is RGIII and his public persona? Can he succeed as ringmaster of the Daniel Snyder circus when so many good coaches before him have failed miserably? The public image of this team is very negative right now. With some aggressive early moves, Gruden could start to reverse that and likely draw money onto this team in the futures market. The public really doesn’t like this team right now, but it is a franchise they want to love.
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