During the last month or so I have given my predictions and the best betting options based on odds for multiple NFL awards that will be handed out next season. One of the most meaningful and coveted awards in all of football is the NFL Coach of the Year.
Last season, Cleveland Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski won the award in his first season as the head coach after leading the Browns to their first playoff appearance and since 2002 and their first playoff victory in nearly 25 years. Much like Stefanski, many of the coaches who emerge as the winners and front runners for this award are coaches who have joined a new franchise/organization and have led their new teams to a playoff appearance or some sort of improved success.
2019’s Coach of the Year was John Harbaugh who took the Baltimore Ravens from a struggling 10-6 team to a team that finished 14-2 and at the top of the AFC on the back of Harbaugh’s coaching and the legs of Lamar Jackson. However, other outlets gave the award to Kyle Shanahan who took the San Francisco 49ers from the second-worst team in the league to the second-best team in the league, and one that was fighting with the Kansas City Chiefs for a Super Bowl in Super Bowl 54.
Sean McVay also had a similar route towards his Coach of the Year in 2017, and I expect that trend to continue. With that being said, there are a few coaches both new and experienced at the head coaching position who are in a great position to lead their team to success, and potentially win themselves an NFL Coach of the Year award.
NFL Coach of the Year Odds
For the sake of this article, we will be looking at PointsBet Sportsbook and their odds for the NFL Coach of the Year, but with many candidates, there is a chance to do some line shopping on these odds.
Oddly enough, PointsBet has Kevin Stefanski, the reigning Coach of the Year, as the favorite for the award at +1200 odds. No coach has won back-to-back Coach of the Year awards since Joe Gibbs was the first ever to do it in 1982 and 1983 with the Washington Football Team.
Coming in at second in terms of best odds, and should probably be the front runner is Brandon Staley. After only one season as the Rams defensive coordinator and only four years of NFL coaching experience, Staley has now joined the cross-town rival Los Angeles Chargers as their new head coach.
Rounding out the top five are last year’s runner-up Brian Flores (+1300), 2017’s winner Sean McVay (+1500), and 2019 snub Kyle Shanahan (+1500).
While all any coach in the league has the chance to make some noise and some impact on their team’s outcome this season, there are a few that have more ammunition and tools at their disposal to become 2021’s Coach of the Year.
Who Should be the Front Runners?
Like many of the other awards that are handed out by the NFL at the annual NFL Honors show, the Coach of the Year award is one that is often impacted by the storyline that the coach has endured or the storyline of the team they coach.
As previously mentioned, last year’s storyline was the Browns finally making the playoffs and winning a playoff game. What will this year’s storyline be? I have a few ideas. Here are my favorites for the award in 2021.
Brandon Staley (+1300)
Brandon Staley’s resume is not long when it comes to NFL coaching experience. The 38-year-old has only been in the NFL coaching circle for four years now, but he will be given his chance with the Los Angeles Chargers, and he is taking over a team that has the potential to breakthrough.
The Chargers lost an astounding seven games by one score or less last year, leading them to finish 7-9 which was only good enough for third place in a tight and strong AFC West division with the Chiefs, Raiders, and Broncos.
Many of those losses can be put on the shoulders of former coach Anthony Lynn, and that is why Brandon Staley is at a distinct advantage over some of the other coaches. He is taking over a team that did not perform to their best potential due to coaching, and he has a chance to bring that potential out of them.
The Chargers have talent on both sides of the ball from safety Derwin James, wide receiver’s Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, as well defensive end Joey Bosa.
But most importantly, they have a blossoming star at QB in Justin Herbert, and a rising star QB is something that often correlates with a Coach of the Year award.
In 2020, Kevin Stefanski had a step-up season from Baker Mayfield. In 2019, John Harbaugh had an MVP season of production from Lamar Jackson. Staley and Herbert could keep this trend going.
What will be tough for the Chargers is the division competition that could keep them from winning games when they need to. But if the Chargers make the playoffs out in the AFC, Staley is sure to be in the running.
First-year head coaches have also won three of the last four, Staley could very well make that four in five.
Brian Flores (+1500)
What Brian Flores accomplished in so little time in Miami was amazing to see, and with another solid season this year, Flores could be in store for some hardware.
In his first season as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Flores led a rag-tag group of players to a 10-6 record that in a stacked AFC was not good enough for a wild card spot. Had Flores made the playoffs with the Dolphins ahead of Kevin Stefanski and the Browns, those two could have been in different spots of this article.
Nonetheless, Flores has shown that he is able to get the most out of his players and his team. The Dolphins were not expected to be productive this past season after finishing in the bottom five in 2019. But behind a QB duo of Ryan Fitzpatrick and then-rookie Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins built a winning culture.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick gone, the keys to the Dolphins car have been fully claimed by Tua Tagovailoa. Like Justin Herbert, Tua is primed for a breakout year, and if he is able to produce, the Dolphins may breakthrough in a tough AFC East with the Bills and Patriots (sorry Jets).
Flores was snubbed hard for what he was able to accomplish in Miami in just one year, and if he can keep that train rolling, he deserves to be in this conversation.
Ron Rivera (+1600)
The former two-time AP Coach of the Year, Ron Rivera, was in the running for a third last year after leading the Washington Football Team to the playoffs in his first season with the team. In addition to that, Rivera did something that no other coach had to do this past season. Beat Cancer. Beating cancer is one thing, but leading a football team to the NFL playoffs while undergoing treatment for it is beyond impressive.
And don’t forget all the off-field issues surrounding the team name, Dwayne Haskins, and Derrius Guice. Rivera went through it all last season and was still able to lead the Football Team to the playoffs.
This Washington Football Team has all the tools to be a contender now with the addition of a competent quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. While Fitzpatrick will not lead them to a Super Bowl, adding him to the roster gives them a bridge QB that they are able to compete with for the time being.
Last season, behind the coaching of Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, the Washington Football Team became one of the best defensive teams in football. They are led by their D-Line upfront that features four first-round picks in Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, and 2020’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young.
With his perseverance story and a team that has the chance to win football games in a weaker NFC East, Ron Rivera has himself positioned nicely for this award.
Bill Belichick (+1800)
Does it shock anybody to see Coach Bill here? The legend has won the award three times as coach of the New England Patriots, and after a down year last year, a bounce-back a competitive year may be all he needs to do to win it a fourth time.
While the Patriots are not the strongest team on paper, and they are lacking consistency at the quarterback position ever since the departure of Tom Brady, I refuse to believe that Bill Belichick was not the main reason behind that Patriots Dynasty. After all, he did have them in the Super Bowl and super competitive before Tom Brady’s greatness.
I will never write off one of the greatest of all time.
NFL Coach of the Year Prediction
With every coach getting super great value on their odds for the award, you cannot go wrong with whoever you choose, but there is one that presents too much upside and potential to pass up, and that is Brandon Staley.
He has been mentioned and focused on throughout this article, and for good reason. He is taking over a strong Chargers team with a talented young quarterback in Herbert at the driver’s seat.
In addition, the award seems to be transitioning towards the younger generation. As the long-stay coaches continue to have success such as the Tomlin’s and Belichick’s. It is the new generation of coaches such as Matt Nagy, Kevin Stefanski, and Sean McVay that come away with the award.
Watch out for the Chargers and Brandon Staley.