Handicapping NFL Coaching Turnover for the 2019 Season
Get immediate results or find yourself a new job. That’s what mantra in the NFL has become in recent years for head coaches and coordinators. The average tenure for a head coach heading into the 2019 season is just 3.8 years. And that includes the likes of veterans Bill Belichick (19 years as head coach of the Patriots), Mike Tomlin (13 years) and Sean Payton (13 years). Offensive and defensive coordinators turn over even more frequently in the NFL, as their average tenure checks in at only 1.4 years for defensive coordinators and a measly 1.1 years for offensive coordinators. That doesn’t exactly scream job security.
As sports bettors, we should welcome this frequent turnover in the coaching ranks with open arms. The biggest advantages to be found in any sport are typically when change occurs. That change can take many forms, but moves along the coaching carousel can present some of the best opportunities to find value. It’s much easier to project the performance of a football team when their coaching staff has been together for several years. We’ve seen what they are capable of and how they operate over a large sample of games. It becomes much more difficult to forecast a team’s fortunes when there is a new head coach running the show, or new coordinators who bring a different style and scheme. Sportsbooks and the betting markets often struggle putting a number on a team that features new coaches. As a result, more mistake lines are posted early in the season involving teams with lots of coaching turnover. Given that fact, I always start my handicapping process for the NFL by evaluating a team’s coaching staff. I focus primarily on head coaches and the offensive and defensive coordinators, as they have the most influence over the success of a team.
Let’s take a look at the list of current head coaches and coordinators for all 32 teams, with the respective year that individual has been at their current post. The highlighted coaches are in their first year.
As you can see, there’s a lot of instability across the NFL. Eight of the 32 head coaches are brand new (25%) this season. As for defensive coordinators, we have 11 new positions with a vast majority having been head coaches previously. Exactly half of the offensive coordinators (16 of 32) are newly-hired and that’s not surprising given the heavy focus on bringing in young, bright minds who can innovate (or who are connected to Sean McVay in any way).
Seven of the eight new head coaches brought in their guys to fill the OC and DC positions. The lone exception was in Green Bay, where DC Mike Pettine was able to keep his job despite the hiring of new head coach Matt LaFleur (OC Nathaniel Hackett was a new hire however).
When hiring a new head coach, organizations generally bring in someone that presents a drastically different style than their predecessor. In Arizona, the Cardinals fired the defensive-minded Steve Wilks in exchange for collegiate offensive guru Kliff Kingsbury. The Buccaneers let go of the conservative Dirk Koetter and replaced him with risk-taker Bruce Arians. These organizations want change and the easiest way to accomplish that is to find someone who has a vastly different philosophy.
Let’s bring the discussion back to sports betting and see if can identify some situations where the betting markets may not be fully appreciating the effect of coaching turnover properly. Here are a few places where I suspect that we could find some value in terms of new offensive coordinators:
Dallas – The Cowboys let go of Scott Linehan and brought in Kellen Moore to be their new OC. The offense became predictable and stale under Linehan in recent years. Linehan was a huge believer in establishing the running game at all costs, sometimes to the detriment of the offense. Moore is a bright mind who thinks outside the box. We’ve already heard grumblings that you’ll see more throws downfield and Dak Prescott has openly said he’s working on his deep game more this offseason. We will likely see more spread formations, especially after the success of the offense in the second half of last season after acquiring Amari Cooper from the Raiders. This could be a more high-powered Cowboys offense in 2019 if head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t get in the way.
Detroit – Matt Patricia preached the running game and defense when he was hired by Detroit last season. Offense coordinator Jim Bob Cooter heard the message loud and clear as the Lions drastically scaled back the passing attack that had been the strength of the team for years. The result? Matthew Stafford had his worst season in six years and the Lions struggled to move the ball. Instead of rethinking his philosophy, Patricia hired a new OC in Darrell Bevell – who loves to run the ball even more than Patricia himself. Bevell came from Seattle where he leaned heavily on Marshawn Lynch during his tenure with great success. The NFL is changing, however, and the Lions are better equipped to have the passing game setting up the running attack. That won’t happen and I think the Lions will play a “grind it out” style that leads to lower-scoring affairs.
Miami – The Dolphins overhauled the entire staff as they are in full rebuild mode for the 2019 season. Head coach Brian Flores comes in after working on the Patriots staff for 15 years under Bill Belichick. He brought Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea with him as his OC. O’Shea will call plays for the first time in his entire career and he has stated that he will rely on the short passing game similar to the style in New England. Josh Rosen will be the quarterback and he’ll be under center behind what will likely be one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. The short passing game will probably be more a necessity than a system, so I am thinking UNDER before OVER in Miami.
Baltimore – The Lamar Jackson era began in 2018 and it started with a bang. Head coach John Harbaugh thought it would make sense to bring in someone who could get the best out of Jackson and that’s why Greg Roman is taking over as OC this season. Roman coached Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco during his prime years and also produced the best season from Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo. I expect him to do more of the same with Jackson. Opposing defenses will surely be more prepared for the unique attack from the Ravens quarterback this season, so I don’t expect a huge boost in production overall. But Roman is uniquely qualified for this role and it bodes well for the Ravens backers this season.
Cleveland – New head coach Freddie Kitchens was promoted after boosting the Cleveland offense significantly in the second half of last season. Baker Mayfield produced Pro Bowl-type numbers under Kitchens after the rookie QB struggled under the tutelage Hue Jackson and Todd Haley early on. Second-year quarterbacks also tend to experience a big jump in production in their second season after getting comfortable with the speed of the game. With Todd Monken named the OC, I expect to see some Air Raid features installed in this offense and that bodes well for the newly-acquired Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. We will see some higher-scoring affairs for the Browns in 2019.
Jacksonville – Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer made a mistake in firing OC John DeFilippo during the 2018 season. DeFilippo favored more passing on early downs and wouldn’t deliver the “ground and pound” attack that Zimmer has stubbornly stuck with in a changing NFL landscape. That’s good news for the Jaguars, who snatched up DeFilippo in the offseason and paired him with a familiar face in Nick Foles. The two of them won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia together where DeFilippo was the OC. We’ll see much more efficient play-calling in Jacksonville this season and much better offensive numbers across the board. Remember, Blake Bortles was the starting quarterback here last season.
Eric Waz had a monster season in the NFL last year, bringing home +15.1 units of profit overall for clients while connecting on nearly 60% of his selections. Click HERE to receive every selection Waz makes from the preseason through the Super Bowl for an Early Bird price of just $899.