How Do NFL Teams Perform After Firing Their Coach Midseason

How Do NFL Teams Perform After Firing Their Coach Midseason article feature image

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Rhule.

We have our first coaching change of the 2022 NFL season, as the Panthers parted ways with Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start, capped off by an embarrassing home loss to the 49ers on Sunday.

How have NFL teams historically performed in the first game with a new coach in the middle of a season? Let's take a look.

Per our Action Labs database, 32 teams have fired their coach during the regular season since 2003. Those teams have gone 15-17 straight up (SU) and 17-15 against the spread (ATS).

A 46.9% SU win rate might not look great, but those teams had an 84-229-2 record (26.8%) prior to the head coaching change. They also compiled a 116-193-5 ATS (37.5%) record prior to the coaching change.

Generally speaking, teams that fire their coach midseason are not very good. The 2021 Raiders were an exception due to the circumstances around Jon Gruden's dismissal; they were 3-2 at the time.

On average, those teams closed as four-point underdogs, implying a win probability of approximately 35%, meaning they have approximately four more wins (15) than expected (11.2) the first game after the coach gets canned.

However, that lens could be misleading due to a few outlier spreads. Therefore, I calculated the expected win probability for each game based on all the closing lines. The teams still won about three more games than expected.

It's not an enormously significant amount and we are dealing with a small sample size, but this does at least hint at a small positive bump after a coaching change.

It may be partially related to a boost in locker room morale, but likely has more to do with positive changes a new coach implements. These teams can give fresh looks that the opponent doesn't have film on. The element of surprise, if you will.

For reference, the overall win percentage improved from 26.9% prior to the change to 37.9% after. The three biggest success stories included the following:

  • 2008: Mike Singletary went 5-4 SU (6-3 ATS) after taking over for the 2-5 49ers
  • 2010: Jason Garrett went 5-3 SU and ATS after taking over for the 1-7 Cowboys
  • 2018: Gregg Williams went 5-3 SU and ATS after taking over for the 2-5-1 Browns

Since 1990, teams that fired their coach midseason went 48% ATS in their remaining games. While an improvement over the ATS record prior to the change, 48% will still leave a hole in your pocket.

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