First NFL Coach Fired: Will Bill O’Brien Be the First To Go?

by Taylor Smith
on September 19, 2018
7

Minute Read

Betting on someone to fail is an inherent part of betting on sports in general. In fact, just about everything when it comes to sports betting relies on some kind of failure. The most common sports bet of all is betting on an entire team to come up short of its goal to win a game. That may be a bit of an oversimplification, but there’s definitely a theme here.

Betting on a person to lose his or her job seems cruel, but you can bet on pretty much whatever you want these days. There are 32 men currently in charge of running an NFL franchise, and at least one of those 32 men is likely to lose his job at some point over the next few months. It’s an ugly truth, but bettors can place wagers on which coach will be the first to join the ranks of the unemployed.

The 2018 NFL season is 2 weeks old. It’s certainly still too early to draw many real conclusions about how the season will play out, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start wondering whether some of the head coaches are long for this world. Some teams are facing rather catastrophic 0-2 starts. BetOnline has wasted no time in updating their “first coach to be fired” odds, so let’s dive right in and try to find some betting value, shall we?

First NFL Coach to be Fired

  • Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills 4/1
  • Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns 5/1
  • Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos 10/1
  • Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals 10/1
  • Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions 10/1
  • Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans 10/1
  • Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10/1
  • Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins 10/1
  • Todd Bowles, New York Jets 12/1
  • Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers 16/1
  • Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys 20/1
  • Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks 20/1
  • Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders 25/1
  • Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals 25/1
  • Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers 25/1

The Newbies

There are currently 7 first-year head coaches across the league. Through 14 combined games, those coaches have an overall record of just 3-11. That isn’t great, but there’s a reason those 7 teams were hiring new coaches in the first place. With the exception of the Tennessee Titans, who qualified for the playoffs, those teams were so bad last season that they needed to find someone new in order to turn things around. The fact that bad teams have gotten off to bad starts the next season isn’t a total surprise.

Do NFL coaches get fired after just one season on the job? Sure, it happens all the time. However, most of them are afforded at least a couple of years in order to try and gain some footing with the new franchise. It would take an exceptionally quick trigger for a front office to fire a first-year head coach without even granting said coach a full season.

We always have to keep an eye on the Raiders in a situation like this, but things seem to have mellowed out in Oakland since the passing of Al Davis. While Mark Davis has problems of his own, he doesn’t seem like the kind of trigger-happy, meddlesome owner that his father was. Jon Gruden has gotten off to a rocky 0-2 start that has included a trade that sent the team’s franchise player to Chicago, but let’s not forget the Raiders signed Gruden to a decade-long contract that will reportedly pay him upwards of $100 million this past offseason. You think the Raiders are going to fire Gruden and still pay him $100 million to go away? Me neither.

Barring some sort of unpredictable off-field scandal, I think all 7 of the first-year guys will be safe, at least until the end of the season. Arizona’s Steve Wilks has gotten off to the worst start, as the Cardinals have been outscored by 52 points (!!!) through the first 2 games. Things are looking dismal in the desert, but it’s hard to imagine Wilks getting the axe this early. The Cardinals will inevitably bench Sam Bradford in order to give promising rookie Josh Rosen a look before long. Wilks will at least get to see what Rosen has before the front office evaluates whether he’s the man for the job moving forward.

Wilks at 10/1 would be the guy I’d say is the most likely first-year guy to go, but I think they’re all safe. So, I’d pass on betting on any of them here.

Winless Veterans

Teams with veteran head coaches off to winless starts are as follows: Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns. The Browns and Steelers are each 0-1-1 after they tied one another in Week 1, while the Texans, Bills and Seahawks each have 2 losses already.

Things are weird with the Steelers right now. Le’Veon Bell’s contract holdout has unexpectedly lasted into the regular season with no end in sight. James Conner has done an admirable job as a fill-in, but it’s pretty clear that the Steelers miss Bell’s all-around presence. There’s also now a new controversy with Antonio Brown. Brown is clearly frustrated with the team’s lackluster start, but agent Drew Rosenhaus said there was nothing to Brown’s tweet over the weekend that said the team should trade him and see how the offense works without him.

It sounds silly, but I think there’s reason to believe Mike Tomlin to lose his job first at 16/1 makes for a solid betting value. Tomlin is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the league, and the franchise won a Super Bowl under his watch back in 2009. While championships have a way of cementing a coach’s status with a team, let’s not forget that we’re going on nearly a decade until that Super Bowl. The Steelers have made just one appearance in the big game since then. While that would be an accomplishment for plenty of teams, Pittsburgh is one of those blue blood franchises with higher expectations.

I am tempted to take a punt bet on Tomlin at 16/1 here, but I could see the Steelers giving him more time to right the ship. The AFC North isn’t exactly one of the deepest divisions in the league, so there is still plenty of reason to believe Pittsburgh can come back and finish in first place. It won’t be easy, and there are plenty of red flags here, but I’m inclined to pass on Tomlin at 16/1.

I think McDermott, Carroll and O’Brien are the guys that should be sweating a bit here.

The Bills made the playoffs last season for the first time in 20 years. It was also McDermott’s first year on the job. The fact that he managed to lead the team to the playoffs as a rookie head coach may have bought him a little leeway with the forsaken franchise, but the inauspicious start to the 2018 campaign should be cause for concern. To be fair, most expected the Bills to take a huge step back this season. Starter Tyrod Taylor was traded to the Browns in the offseason, and the team opted to start Nathan Peterman in Week 1. Peterman was an abject disaster, and the team decided to immediately replace him with rookie Josh Allen.

Allen was better in Week 2, but the Bills were still absolutely obliterated by the Chargers. Buffalo appears to be headed for one of the worst records in the league. The fact that the AFC East is awful and shallow may help them to a few more wins than they would get in a normal division, but the Bills are in a bad place at the moment. That said, I think the aforementioned playoff appearance may grand McDermott some breathing room.

O’Brien is the guy I could see getting shown the door pretty early here. The Texans generated some Super Bowl buzz among experts prior to the season. While a Week 1 loss in New England isn’t necessarily something to be ashamed of, the team still looked woefully unprepared. The game wasn’t nearly as close as the 27-20 final score would indicate. Houston had to go on the road again in Week 2, but they honestly should have come away with a victory against a Titans team missing its starting quarterback, Marcus Mariota. Losing to Blaine Gabbert was a disgraceful showing, and the Texans’ offensive playcalling still leaves plenty to be desired.

Owner Bob McNair hasn’t been quick to fire coaches in the past, but O’Brien has been in this job long enough to where he should have some skins on the wall by now. The Texans have made zero progress under his watch, so I love the betting value on O’Brien here at 10/1 to be the first coach fired.

Cleveland’s Hue Jackson is another candidate at 5/1, but the Browns could easily be 2-0 at this point. If a couple of breaks had gone their way, Jackson would be the early Coach of the Year frontrunner. Unless things go horribly over the next few weeks, I think Jackson is safe.

Of the winless veteran coaches, I think O’Brien to be the first coach fired (10/1) is the right way to go with your wager.

Pete Carroll

Pete Carroll gets his own section. Carroll famously rose from the college ranks at USC to ultimately lead the Seahawks to the best era in franchise history by a wide margin. That stretch included a Super Bowl title and a narrow defeat a second time against the New England Patriots. The Seahawks have been a postseason mainstay under Carroll’s watch, and he’s easily the best coach the team has ever had.

Coming into this season, however, there was plenty of reason to believe the Seahawks would be bad. The team has done almost nothing to boost the offensive line over the years, and now it is arguably among the worst units in football. Russell Wilson is great, but he’s never really worked with one of the more talented receiving corps in the league. The team’s running back situation in the post-Marshawn Lynch era has been sketchy, at best. Other than Wilson, this offense has very little going for it.

The defense has been a hallmark of the Seahawks in recent years, but the “Legion of Boom” has been gutted. Richard Sherman is in San Francisco, while Kam Chancellor was forced to retire due to injury. Earl Thomas is still here, but he just endured an ugly preseason contract holdout. The overall talent level on the defense isn’t close to where it was during the Seahawks’ prime contending years.

This could be a rough year. The L.A. Rams look like they’re going to coast to the NFC West title, while the Seahawks and 49ers look like they’ll be battling it out for second place. I don’t necessarily think the Seahawks will wind up being one of the very worst teams in football, but this is looking like a lost year. Carroll isn’t getting any younger, either, so it may be time to move on. I think the betting value on Carroll to be the first coach fired at 20/1 is extremely interesting. You can get a ton of bang for your buck with that bet, so I do think he’s a viable long shot punt option.

Final Thoughts

I thought Dallas’ Jason Garrett would be a serious candidate to be the first coach fired, but the Cowboys looked capable in their easy Week 2 win over the New York Giants. I do think Garrett is still a viable betting option at 20/1, but Jerry Jones has curiously been hesitant to fire Garrett despite the team having been mediocre for years under his watch. Jones will give Garrett all the time he needs, apparently, which has me more bearish on Garrett’s chances of getting fired than I was coming into the year.

Marvin Lewis and Dirk Koetter each have pretty good odds of getting fired, but both are off to impressive 2-0 starts. Koetter in particular has bought himself some extra time with shocking wins over a couple of Super Bowl hopefuls in the Saints and Eagles. Lewis has been on the job since 2003, but the Bengals don’t seem all that eager to find a new face.

Here is how I’ll rank my favorite bets here:

  1. Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans 10/1
  2. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks 20/1
  3. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills 4/1
  4. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers 16/1
  5. Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals 10/1
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