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Judge Rookie Head Coaches By Their Covers




First-year NFL head coaches went 0-7 in Week One and, more importantly, 1-6 ATS, but don't let the first week of the season fool you.

Oddsmakers noticed first-year NFL head coaches going 0-7 in Week One. To profit, you should too.

Nobody thought it would be easy for the new NFL head coaches making their debut in NFL Week One.  The scoreboard didn’t disappoint.  Of the more than half dozen making their first appearance calling the shots, none stepped off the field as a winner.

Naming names, Mike Vrabel, Titans; Frank Reich, Colts; Steve Wilks, Cardinals; Pat Shurmer, Giants; Jon Gruden, Raiders; Matt Patricia, Lions and Matt Nagy of the Bears all contributed to an all-time NFL record for initial futility at 0-7.  It broke the 0-6 mark set in Week One 2001.  At least Nagy saved some face for Chicago bettors as they were the only team that managed to cover the spread among the group.  The asterisk being involved in Aaron Rodgers memorable 24-23 Superman Sunday Night Football comeback for the Packers.

Before complete panic sets in for fans of any of these teams, let’s examine the records of NFL rookie head coaches in Week One the past five seasons:

2017: 4-2 (3 made playoffs)
2016: 4-3 (2 made playoffs)
2015: 5-2 (1 made playoffs)
2014: 4-3 (1 made playoffs)
2013: 3-5 (3 made playoffs)

NFL new head coachesThe initial reaction to read here is that no one considered the first time out a complete forecast for failure.  And realistically, a high percentage even went on to make the playoffs with a new leader.  For bettors, this could be a potential goldmine knowing how the public will always be too quick to overreact with two fists upon the wagering line.  As Janet Jackson once sang "What Have You Done for Me Lately".  In the NFL betting world, it’s more like "what have you done for me last week?"   With a zero-track record of success, these rookie head coaches have ten times the pressure to prove themselves on their backs.  In other words, lack of confidence may buy you as much as an extra three points in Week Two.  Here’s a few prime examples:

Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers (-6)

This game is currently posted at -6 at most preferred offshore sportsbooks.  It could reach as high as -6.5 or perhaps 49ers -7 by kickoff time.

Detroit vs San FranciscoShould this late afternoon Sunday affair have been posted before the season started there is no way this game gets off at higher that maybe Niners -3.5.  Keep in mind veteran star QB Matthew Stafford will be under center for the Lions and no significant Detroit injuries reported.  It is simply regarding their Week One 48-17 thrashing by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold of the New York Jets that gained immediately headlines.  Reports that Jets players knew rookie head coach Matt Patricia’s signals made for popular weekly talk show banter. 

This is NOT an endorsement to potentially play the Lions.  But merely evidence how one early game can shape the public’s perception overnight.  After the line was put up there was no significant change, indicating balanced wagering as the oddsmaker’s traditional objective.

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-13)

Wait a minute here guys.  Before we begin comparing head coaches that don’t PLAY football, let’s purely examine the wagering line.

Arizona Cardinals oddsWhen was the last time the Rams in Los Angeles or even St. Louis were a -13 favorite over anybody?  More peculiar, when was the last time the Arizona Cardinals were a double-digit dog?  I suppose we could look that one up but let’s just estimate it was another decade. 

As for those coaches, yes, Steve Wilks’ Cardinals looked pretty lame in their 24-6 home opening loss to the Washington Redskins. Of the twenty passes Arizona QB Sam Bradford completed, only three went for more than eight yards.  Yikes.  But keep in mind that L.A. Rams young head coach Sean McVay isn’t exactly a Hall of Fame candidate just yet.  Impressive in making the playoffs in only his first season, many like him have burned out in similar scenarios. 

Don’t tell that to the linemaker, who have the Rams a monster -13 and growing favorite in their home opener after disposing the Raiders 33-13 last week on Monday Night Football.  A 23-0 second-half shutout will remain on the minds of most bettors as they pile the dough the Rams way before kickoff as the undefeated choice.  That performance alone has vaulted the Rams down to +800 second choice behind the New England Patriots (+600) in the Super Bowl Futures at top sports book Bovada.

Careful Conclusions

It will be about statistically impossible for these seven rookie head coaches to universally fail again in NFL Week Two. More important for what we all come to the dance for, much more likely to reach 1-6 against the spread. A footnote to watch for excellent teaser opportunities. 

Under the microscope the science is observing these seven teams and seven rookie head coaches carefully in September to evaluate who quickly learns their lessons. Who adapts to NFL life the fastest, makes clever changes and gains the confidence of their teams? 

The good news for these guys is they have their honeymoon all planned out. We’re only about a month away until a few "veteran" NFL head coaches join the list of October candidates to walk the plank and get fired the first of the year.  Therefore, fans of say Adam Gase of the Dolphins or Jay Gruden of the Redskins shouldn’t over celebrate their Week One wins (and covers) just yet.  It won’t be long till we’ll be hearing "What Have You Done for Me Lately" playing again. 

Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.