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One of the best ways to find value in the NFL is betting into uncertainty before the market can react, and few situations generate more uncertainty than a team replacing its head coach.
Five teams - the Browns, Cowboys, Giants, Panthers, and Redskins - enter 2020 with a new leader on the sidelines, which could prove especially challenging given the restrictions this summer from the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, expectations are high in the betting market, with all five clubs expected to increase their win total from 2019:
|COACH||TEAM||2019 RECORD||2020 WIN TOTAL|
|Matt Rhule||Carolina Panthers||5-11||5.5|
|Kevin Stefanski||Cleveland Browns||6-10||8.5|
|Mike McCarthy||Dallas Cowboys||8-8||9.5|
|Joe Judge||New York Giants||4-12||6|
|Ron Rivera||Washington Redskins||3-13||5|
Odds from theScore Bet
Is it fair to expect a new head coach to right the ship so quickly? We tracked and analyzed data from Sports Database for every head coaching hire of the 2010s to find the answer. In short: Bettors can anticipate results with new head coaches, but they'll need to pick their spots to make it worthwhile.
From 2010 to 2019, 67 teams entered the season with new names at the head coaching position. Those clubs improved their record by an average of 1.5 wins, with 41 of them finishing with a better record than the year before (those teams' records jumped by nearly four victories each). As a whole, clubs improved their winning percentage from 34% to 43.6% under a new staff.
The results are even more impressive against the spread. Of those 67 coaches, 46 improved their teams' ATS record, including 17 of the last 21 hires. And since 2016, only nine of 21 new head coaches have finished the year with a losing ATS record.
Still, it's worth noting that while most new coaches were better bets ATS than their predecessors, they weren't necessarily good ones. Teams with a new coach have gone 516-521-35 ATS (49.8%), with 32 of the 67 new hires finishing above .500 against the number.
If you're betting on a postseason run under a new staff, the numbers are also stacked against it. Since 2010, only 17 teams (25.4%) made the playoffs in their first year with a new coach, and nearly half of them won at least six games the year prior. The first stat is unsettling for the Cowboys' (-210) and Browns' (+135) playoff odds; the latter casts doubt on the chances of the other three squads.
The above stats are encouraging for those expecting a reasonable bump under a new regime, though it's worth assessing which situations tend to breed success in the betting market.
Of the 11 coaches who improved their team's win total by six or more wins, nine of them were first-time head coaches in the NFL. That's encouraging for newcomers such as Joe Judge, Matt Rhule, and Kevin Stefanski, who all take the reins for the first time on the NFL stage.
Judge and Rhule have strong precedent to hit their win totals, too. Of the 21 teams to win between four-to-five games before hiring a new head coach - as the Giants and Panthers did in 2019 - 16 of them won at least six contests the following year. That'd be good enough for Judge and Rhule to cash their win totals in their pro coaching debuts.
Ron Rivera might have the easiest task of all, one he's plenty familiar with. Since 2010, 13 teams finished with at least 13 losses before canning their coach. Ten of those teams won at least five games the following year - including the 2011 Panthers, who went from 2-14 to 6-10 in Rivera's first year as a head coach.
Mike McCarthy walks into the best situation of any new coach, but he's got the toughest ask from a betting perspective. Since 2010, only 10 coaches have taken over a team coming off an eight-win season or better. Five of those coaches finished with a losing record, and only two improved their team's win total - which doesn't bode well for the Cowboys' over (-130) at 9.5 wins.
In total, though, don't hesitate to put your money behind new coaches, even if you're scared off by their teams' poor efforts the year before. Just know when and where to strike.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.