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2022 NFL Coach of the Year Odds, Picks: 2 Bet To Make Right Now

2022 NFL Coach of the Year Odds, Picks: 2 Bet To Make Right Now article feature image
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David Berding/Getty Images. Pictured: Kevin O’Connell.

We’re continuing to dig into season-long awards bets for the 2022 NFL season.

I’ll be previewing each market over the next week and returning to these all season. Today, we’re looking at Coach of the Year (COY). This is a unique award, and one that’s about much more than just winning a bunch of games.

Let’s build a winning COY historical profile and then narrow down the field from 32 to eight to the two names you should bet right now…

Be sure to check out all the other award picks if you haven’t already:

Who Wins Coach of the Year?

Let’s take a quick look at every Coach of the Year winner since the start of last decade and see what trends we can spot:

  • 2021, Mike Vrabel (TEN): Improved from 11-5 to 12-5 and 1-seed
  • 2020, Kevin Stefanski (CLE): 6-10 to 11-5 as first-year coach division winner
  • 2019,John Harbaugh (BAL): 10-6 to 14-2 and 1-seed
  • 2018, Matt Nagy (CHI): 5-11 to 12-4 as first-year coach division winner
  • 2017, Sean McVay (LAR): 4-12 to 11-5 as first-year coach division winner
  • 2016, Jason Garrett (DAL): 4-12 to 13-3 and 1-seed
  • 2015, Ron Rivera (CAR): 7-8-1 to 15-1 and 1-seed
  • 2014, Bruce Arians (ARI): 10-6 to 11-5 after losing Carson Palmer
  • 2013, Ron Rivera (CAR): 7-9 to 12-4 and 2-seed
  • 2012, Bruce Arians (IND): 2-14 to 9-3 standing in for Chuck Pagano
  • 2011, Jim Harbaugh (SF): 6-10 to 13-3 as first-year coach division winner

Perhaps you notice some patterns:

1. The Coach of the Year has to win a lot of games.

Duh.

This is a team award, and teams have to win for voters to care. COY teams won an average of 12.3 games, or 13.0 at the present 17-game pace. Every one of them won at least 11 (except Arians, who took over midseason).

Eight of those 11 winners also won a division title, and the three that didn’t had a strong narrative. Six of the 11 won so much they earned a first-round bye.

Winning reigns supreme.

2. It’s not just about winning — it’s about improvement from last season.

Every one of our 11 COYs improved upon their team’s previous campaign — most of them by a lot.

The average COY team won 5.7 games more than the previous season, improving from 6.6 wins to 12.3 the following year. In a 17-game schedule, that’s the equivalent of jumping from seven to 13 wins.

Nine of the 11 COYs gained at least four wins in the previous season, with a median improvement of seven wins. That’s a lot of improvement!

3. Coaches of the Year outperform expectations.

But it’s not just about winning, or even improving. There’s a narrative portion of this award too. Voters want a COY from a team that surprises.

We can use Vegas over/under lines to measure expectations. All 11 COYs above won at least 2.5 games above their posted win total, and eight of them won at least 4.5 games more than expected!

The average win total coming into the season for these COY winners was 8.35. That doesn’t include Vrabel last year since he’s the only one on a 17-game schedule. Vrabel’s Titans had a line at 9.5, but every other COY had a line at 8.5 or below, and seven of the 10 were right in that 7.5-to-8.5 sweet spot.

Essentially, these are teams with win total expectations right around .500 that then go on to outperform expectations, often by 4.5 or more wins.

So what are we looking for in a Coach of the Year?

We need a coach whose team wins a bunch, way more than last year, and they need to outperform their win total expectations. We’d love a team expected to win around 7-10 games that instead leaps to 12-plus and a division title.

A few other notes we should keep in mind…

  • The last seven winners all started the year at +2000 or longer, so this doesn’t usually go to the favorite
  • Three of the last five COYs were first-year coaches on their team, along with five of the last 11
  • Four of the last six COYs were offensive-minded, fitting the direction the game is headed

We’ve only got 32 possible winners, so let’s narrow down the field…

Expectations Already Too High

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers
Sean McDermott, Bills
Zac Taylor, Bengals
Todd Bowles, Bucs
Brandon Staley, Chargers
Andy Reid, Chiefs
Nathaniel Hackett, Broncos
Matt LaFleur, Packers
Sean McVay, Rams

We just ruled out 10 of our 32 options — good coaches! — with a wave of the hand. And why? Because we already expect their teams to be good.

Each of those coaches has a posted win total of 10 or higher. None of our COYs started with a win total that high, not even Vrabel (9.5) with last year’s expanded schedule.

We don’t just need a winner — we need a surprise winner. That means our criteria already rule out a few popular Coach of the Year candidates, including first-year coaches Hackett and Bowles along with COY favorite Staley.

It doesn’t mean these guys can’t win, but they don’t fit our profile. On the other end of the spectrum, you never know which teams might jump from the bottom of the league all the way to the top, but remember, we likely need 12-plus wins and a division title.

Our profile expects a team with a 7.5-to-9.5 win total. That narrows our potential field to 14 teams: Browns, Cardinals, Commanders, Colts, Dolphins, Eagles, Giants, Patriots, Raiders, Ravens, Saints, Steelers, Titans, and Vikings.

Let’s narrow the field a bit further.

No Repeat Winners Allowed

Kevin Stefanski, Browns
John Harbaugh, Ravens
Mike Vrabel, Titans

Other than the GOAT Bill Belichick — who gets an exclusion here — Ron Rivera is the only other coach this century to win COY twice for the same franchise. We just don’t pick many repeat winners.

That rules this trio out, and it’s another strike against McVay too.

12 Wins and a Division Title Is Asking Too Much

Ron Rivera, Commanders
Brian Daboll, Giants
Josh McDaniels, Raiders

There’s a clear path to improvement for each of these teams. But remember, every COY above won at least 11 games, and that probably translates to 12 with the longer schedule. Almost all of them won the division too.

Washington and New York play in a winnable division, but do you see a realistic path to 12 wins? I don’t. Las Vegas is more talented but plays in one of the most talented divisions ever and is clearly the fourth best team going in. If the Raiders somehow win the division, McDaniels would be a slam dunk pick. Bet COY over a division title if you like the Raiders, but I can’t be talked into either.

Okay, we’re finally down to eight candidates, one quarter of the league. Here’s how I’d rank them, from No. 8 to No. 1…

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Our Final 8 COY Candidates

8. Frank Reich, Colts +2000

It’s just tough to see the narrative here. The Colts nearly made the playoffs last year, and any improvement this year would likely be credited to Matt Ryan in place of Carson Wentz. Well, that and the super weak division — but not Reich.

7. Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals +3000

The Cards open against the Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, and Eagles all in the first six games — all without the suspended DeAndre Hopkins. Arizona’s offense has struggled mightily without Nuk the last couple years, so the Cardinals could get buried early, especially in a loaded division.

Kingsbury just got extended through 2027 this spring. Otherwise I’d suggest he has a better chance to be the first coach fired than Coach of the Year.

6. Bill Belichick, Patriots +3000

GOATs get their own rules, but Belichick still faces an uphill climb. His Patriots would almost certainly need to top the Bills in the division, likely sweeping them in two head-to-head matchups.

Buffalo is the Super Bowl favorite for a reason, and this is one of Belichick’s least-talented teams in decades. Belichick is basically coaching both sides of the ball at this point, so there’s a new narrative there if he can get Mac Jones and this offense to take another step.

5. Mike Tomlin, Steelers +3000

It’s hard to believe Tomlin has never won Coach of the Year, and if Pittsburgh somehow rides Mitchell Trubisky or rookie Kenny Pickett to 12 wins and a division title in a loaded AFC North, Tomlin would be a very strong candidate.

Can the Steelers do it, though? Pittsburgh has a bottom-three offensive line and a brutal QB situation, and the defense is more borderline top-10 than elite. It’s an easy case if you believe, but I don’t.

4. Dennis Allen, Saints +3000

Allen is another guy with an easy narrative. If he steps in for the departed Sean Payton and keeps the Saints offense humming with another great defensive year, he’ll get a lot of credit.

New Orleans would likely need to top the Bucs in the division. The Saints have had Tampa’s number, but the Bucs are loaded. The Saints could have the league’s top defense and fit a profile similar to recent Bears or Steelers 12-game winners, and Allen could get a lot of credit.

But in the last two years, the Saints have lost Payton, Drew Brees, Terron Armstead, Trey Hendrickson, Michael Jenkins, and Sheldon Rankins — and may be without Michael Thomas (health) and Alvin Kamara (suspension) for a chunk of the season again. It’s a tough task.

3. Mike McDaniel, Dolphins +2000

On the one hand, this could go very poorly. The Dolphins had a tumultuous offseason with the Brian Flores allegations, Sean Payton and Tom Brady rumors, and suspension of owner Stephen Ross. It would be easy for McDaniel and Tua Tagovailoa to wonder if they’re even wanted here.

Miami opens against the Patriots, Bills, Ravens, and Bengals. If this starts poorly, the Dolphins could be buried early.

Then again, that all sets up for a very positive narrative if Miami does have a big season. The Dolphins added a ton of talent in Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead, Connor Williams, and Melvin Ingram, and McDaniel brings a great pedigree and could transform this offense. The defense has already been good.

Miami also gets 49ers, Chargers, Bills, and Packers in December so it’s a brutal finish. Miami has a gauntlet schedule and probably has to beat Buffalo for the division. But if they do, McDaniel will be a hot name.

The 2 Coaches You Should Bet Right Now

2. Kevin O’Connell, Vikings +2000

The Vikings are a popular sleeper. A roster that might have been blown up was mostly retained. Instead, ownership opted to say goodbye to Mike Zimmer and bring in the league’s second-youngest coach, offensive wizard O’Connell.

O’Connell is from the McVay tree and should modernize this offense, revitalizing the run game and adding pre-snap movement and misdirection that opens things up for Kirk Cousins and all those talented weapons. If Minnesota takes a leap offensively with essentially the same players as last year, O’Connell will rightfully get a ton of credit.

The division is effectively a two-team race, and Minnesota can strike first with a Week 1 home game against the Packers. Add in improved health and defense, and O’Connell is a very strong first-year candidate.

1. Nick Sirianni, Eagles +2000

The Eagles have been a buzzy sleeper all offseason, and most of the value is gone on their win total and division odds. But Sirianni winning Coach of the Year still looks juicy.

Philadelphia’s offense took a leap midseason under Sirianni. The Eagles have the best and deepest offensive line in the league and an elite smashmouth run game built around Jalen Hurts. Now the offense adds stud WR A.J. Brown too.

The bigger improvement may be in defense, where the Eagles could have top-five upside. They added James Bradberry and Haason Reddick along with a pair of rookie studs in Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean. Philadelphia has one of the league’s deepest front sevens and a pair of great corners.

The Eagles might be the whole package. Philadelphia also plays one of the league’s softest schedules in a very winnable division. If the Eagles win 12 or 13 games and contend among the league’s elite, Sirianni could be our winner.

Two coaches fit the profile best for 2022 Coach of the Year. Bet O’Connell and Sirianni together at a combined implied +950.

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