Stuckey: How Have NFL Teams Performed After Firing Their Head Coach In-Season?


Bob Levey/Getty Images. Pictured: Houston Texans fans at NRG Stadium show their displeasure with former head coach Bill O’Brien.

We have our first in-season NFL head coach firing of the 2020 season, as the Houston Texans have parted ways with Bill O’Brien. There are a few others on the hot seat that could follow in the coming weeks, namely Adam Gase (New York Jets) and Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons).

After Houston canned O’Brien, a follower on twitter asked me how teams have historically performed the week after firing their coach during their season, so I thought I’d share the results.

Per our Bet Labs database, since 2003, 28 teams have fired their coach in-season, including two last year (Washington and Carolina). Those teams have gone 12-16 straight up and 14-14 against the spread.

A 42.9% straight-up win rate might not look great, but those teams had a 78-205-2 record (27.6%) prior to the head coaching change. They also compiled a 106-173-5 ATS (38%) record prior to the coaching change.

On average, those teams closed as 4.6-point underdogs, implying a win probability of approximately 35%, meaning they’ve won more than two more games (12) than expected (9.8) the game after the coach firing.

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 28 closing lines. The teams still won about two games more 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, which logically makes sense to me.

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It may be partially related to a boost in locker room morale but likely has more to do with positive changes a new coach will implement and most importantly, fresh looks that the opponent doesn’t have tape on for that first game post-change.

After everything I’ve seen from O’Brien in the past, I personally think the coaching change can only work in the Texans’ favor this upcoming Sunday as six-point home favorites against Jacksonville.

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