NFL Prop Bets – Who’s the First Coach to Get the Pink Slip?

by Kevin Roberts
on September 15, 2017

With the 2017 NFL season underway, the head coach firing countdown has officially begun. Chuck Pagano entered 2017 looking like a strong candidate to get bounced from Indianapolis, and per the latest NFL odds at Bovada, he now looks like the top favorite to get the axe.

The logic is there for anyone to see. Pagano’s defensive background hasn’t yielded an elite Colts defense, while Indy has seemingly regressed in each of the last two seasons. The Colts inexplicably handed their would-be lame duck coach a contract extension before the season, but if week one is any indication, that might not save him.

First Head Coach to Be Fired Odds

It does not look good for Pagano, who took a perennial winner under Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell and has slowly driven it into the ground. Pagano heads into week two as the top favorite to be handed a pink slip, as his Colts got off to a rough 0-1 start by getting trounced by the Rams, 47-9.

Not having star quarterback Andrew Luck under center isn’t doing Pagano any favors, but at some point he may have to answer for his team constantly failing to deliver.

Pagano is far from the only big name head coach that is already on the hot seat, however. Just take a look at the latest head coaching firing odds, per Bovada:

  • Chuck Pagano – Indianapolis Colts (-125)
  • Marvin Lewis – Cincinnati Bengals (+500)
  • John Fox – Chicago Bears (+1200)
  • Todd Bowles – New York Jets (+1200)
  • Ben McAdoo – New York Giants (+1200)
  • Hue Jackson – Cleveland Browns (+1600)
  • Jim Caldwell – Detroit Lions (+1600)
  • Bill O’Brien – Houston Texans (+1600)
  • Mike Mularkey – Tennessee Titans (+1800)
  • Sean Payton – New Orleans Saints (+2800)
  • Jay Gruden – Washington Redskins (+2800)
  • Adam Gase – Miami Dolphins (+3300)
  • Doug Pederson – Philadelphia Eagles (+3300)
  • Ron Rivera – Carolina Panthers (+3300)
  • Sean McDermott – Buffalo Bills (+3300)
  • Doug Marrone – Jacksonville Jaguars (+4000)
  • Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys (+4000)
  • Bruce Arians – Arizona Cardinals (+4000)
  • Dan Quinn – Atlanta Falcons (+5000)
  • Mike Zimmer – Minnesota Vikings (+5000)
  • Dirk Koetter – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6600)
  • Kyle Shanahan – San Francisco 49ers (+6600)
  • Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers (+7500)
  • Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh Steelers (+10000)
  • Mike McCarthy – Green Bay Packers (+10000)
  • Sean McVay – Los Angeles Rams (+10000)
  • Jack Del Rio – Oakland Raiders (+10000)
  • John Harbaugh – Baltimore Ravens (+10000)
  • Vance Joseph – Denver Broncos (+10000)
  • Andy Reid – Kansas City Chiefs (+10000)
  • Pete Carroll – Seattle Seahawks (+10000)
  • Bill Belichick – New England Patriots (+50000)

The first thing to consider if you’re making this bet is which coaches are pretty safe and which logically are in trouble. One easy way to differentiate the options is to consider what actually gets a coach fired.

Coaches with even moderate success and a good team around them are typically going to be safe. There are legends like Belichick, Carroll, Reid and Harbaugh that are untouchable. McCarthy and Tomlin are the next tier down and aren’t remotely at risk.

You could make a small case for coaches like Del Rio and Zimmer, but they’ve rebuilt franchises into playoff contenders – if not title threats.

Dan Quinn and Ron Rivera are probably off limits, too. Quinn got his Falcons to the Super Bowl last year and Riverboat Ron got Carolina to the same game two years ago.

Jason Garrett, Bruce Arians and Jay Gruden are also all probably safe. They’ve had some solid success and in their current position, I’m not sure much more can be asked of them.

I also think most of the first-year guys are safe. I don’t see much reason for anyone to toss money on Vance Joseph, Anthony Lynn, Sean McVay or Sean McDermott to get fired. They could get canned, in theory, but I doubt it. The only one I’d be on the fence about is Kyle Shanahan. The Niners have had a different coach in each of the last four seasons now and if he doesn’t make positive changes, rookie GM John Lynch could get rid of him before he makes him lose his job, too.

I don’t think Shanny has that short of a leash, but if you’re looking for a flier bet in this group, he’s an interesting one at +6600 at Bovada.

In Danger

Those are your untouchables, or at least close to it.

That leaves us with Dirk Koetter, Doug Marrone, Doug Pederson, Adam Gase, Sean Payton, Mike Mularkey, Bill O’Brien, Jim Caldwell, Hue Jackson, Ben McAdoo, Todd Bowles, John Fox, Marvin Lewis and of course, Chuck Pagano.

I’m sure we can quickly rule out some of these guys, too.

Koetter, Pederson, McAdoo and Gase are all in their second seasons. They seem to have built solid foundations and have had moderate success already. It would likely take massive crater jobs for any of them to get fired in 2017.

Next up are Hue Jackson, Mike Mularkey and Doug Marrone. Jackson probably should be given a long leash consider he took over a terrible Browns roster, but his team only went 1-15 in 2016. I think he’s fine as long as they’re competitive and show steady progress, but it’s possible they endure another trying season and that obviously wouldn’t look good for him.

Mularkey was a sheepish hire in the first place for the Titans, so he probably needs to make serious noise in 2017 to keep his job. He took over as the team’s interim coach in 2015 and finished 9-7 last year, but anything short of a playoff run puts him in danger.

Marrone is another candidate for quick release, depending on how things unfold for the Jags. Much like Mularkey, he took over as an interim solution last year and was handed full control ahead of the 2017 season. The Jags seem built to make a playoff run, so if he can’t help them do that, his head could easily be the first to roll.

If we’re looking for extra value, we should consider veteran coaches like Caldwell, Payton and O’Brien. These guys have had some success, but NFL franchises don’t like wasting away in purgatory. It’s tough to demand more out of Caldwell and O’Brien give the teams they’re leading, but anything less than a return to the playoffs probably won’t be met with a smile.

Payton is the wild card here at +2800, just because he’s been rumored to be on the hot seat for years now. It’s never easy to move away from an iconic coach who brought your franchise a Super Bowl and back to relevancy, but Payton hasn’t pushed the Saints into the playoff since 2013.

Who Gets Fired First?

I think we can locate some solid value with a few of the names we touched on. Payton, Mularkey and Marrone stand out the most in that regard and Shanny (+6600) is probably my favorite high-end flier bet.

Ultimately, the top NFL sportsbooks probably have this wager right. Pagano is the obvious leader for so many reasons, Marvin Lewis has been in Cincinnati for an astonishing 14 seasons without registering a single playoff win, while John Fox and Todd Bowles are at their team’s mercy in obvious rebuilding stages.

I think the big question is what the Bears and Jets hope to accomplish in 2017. If they merely want to compete and stock up on more draft picks, then why lead their current coaches on?

Unless these teams just cave early and don’t put up any kind of a fight, I have to think both organizations already know they’re not going to be very good and they still like the guys leading the way.

If that’s true, we’re looking at Lewis or Pagano being canned first. Lewis is off to an 0-1 start after a nasty 20-0 home loss last week and the Bengals missed the playoffs in 2016. He’s pieced together a really solid team and has helped the Bengals to 7 winning seasons, but further regression might finally end his reign.

Pagano is closer to getting fired, though. Lewis at least built up a solid Bengals defense and has a long history of making the playoffs. Pagano reached the playoffs in his first three years on the job, but his Indy defenses haven’t been good and he’s largely survived thanks to the play of Andrew Luck.

Throughout the process, Pagano has failed to surround Luck with winning talent or proper pass protection, while he’s actually thrown his quarterback under the bus before. With two straight 8-8 seasons behind him and a horrific start to 2017, Pagano seems to be very much on his last legs.

Vegas knows it, which is why we get almost no value with him at -150. We can consider fun flier bets on Lewis and Shanahan, but if we want the logical and safe bet, we’re trending towards Pagano being the right pick.

Pick: Chuck Pagano (-150)
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