Cowboys vs. Bears Betting Trend: Jason Garrett Is the Problem
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jason Garrett
- The Cowboys haven't performed well for bettors as favorites under Jason Garrett.
- Using Bet Labs, Matthew Freedman explains why that is a product of Garrett's coaching.
I was researching in our Bet Labs database, and noticed something curious about the Cowboys.
As of writing (early Thursday morning of Week 14), opponents are 51-38-3 against the spread as underdogs against the Cowboys under head coach Jason Garrett. In Bet Labs, that trend has an A- grade and shows a historical return on investment of 12%.
I’m not a “trends bettor,” but I like to use trends to identify spots for further research, and it’s notable that Garrett’s Cowboys have underperformed so consistently as favorites.
And it raises the question: Should you almost always fade the Cowboys as favorites?
If I had to bet on the Week 14 Thursday Night Football game between the Cowboys and Bears, I almost certainly wouldn’t bet on the Cowboys as three-point favorites.
The Spread for the Favored Cowboys Has Been Accurate
As notable as this trend is, on its own it’s not particularly curious. It’s actually intuitive: Garrett’s Cowboys for years have underperformed all sorts of their expectations. It makes sense that they would be exploitable opponents when favored.
Here’s what’s curious: The margin for this trend — the numerical difference between the spread that Vegas sets and the end-of-game point differential for the Cowboys and their opponents — is a mere +0.04 points.
Example: Garrett’s Cowboys have been favored in 92 games. Let’s say that in each of those games they were favored by three points. What this +0.04 margin means (in this illustration) is that on average the Cowboys have won by 2.96 points.
In other words, across the Garrett era, the market has set the spread with remarkable accuracy when the Cowboys have been favored. A margin of +0.04 is almost nothing. It’s negligible.
In the aggregate, the expectations that Vegas has had for the Cowboys as favorites, they have pretty much hit.
As a Cowboys fan, I find that fact both comforting and terrifying.
Jason Garrett Is the Problem
What does it mean that the Cowboys as favorites have hit Vegas expectations with their point margin but consistently underperformed with their ATS record?
There are two possibilities.
- The ATS record is the result of randomness, and we should expect regression toward the expected .500 ATS record in the future.
- The ATS record is not the result of randomness, and the Cowboys have some sort of internal problem core to their present identity as an organization.
Sample size is always an issue with football because there are so few games, but Garrett has been the head coach for nine-plus seasons. In the NFL, it’s hard to find a sample much larger than that.
Given the size of the sample, I don’t think the Cowboys are victims of randomness.
They’re victims of Garrett. He is the problem.
If a team hits Vegas expectations in the long run and yet consistently finds ways to underperform, it has a blatantly clear coaching problem. Plain and simple. It has a coach who undermines the team just enough each game to cause it to lose too many games just barely.
Until Garrett radically changes who he is as a coach or is let go by the team, there’s no earthly way I can bet on the Cowboys when they are favored.
Not when the head coach who will beat them is standing on their own sideline.