June 2, 2021

Handicapping the 2021 NFL Coach of the Year Award Race

One of the most random — and fun — NFL prop bets to make every year is the Coach of the Year Award. The ambiguity of the award makes it a difficult one to predict correctly the first time because the best overall coach rarely wins it.

Instead, we usually see the coach of the biggest breakout team win the award. Would anyone actually make the argument Kevin Stefanski is better than Bill Belichick? No, they'd be insane, but Stefanski helped the Browns see a massive improvement in his first season with the franchise.

We've only seen back-to-back winners three times since 1957. Allie Sherman in 1961-62, Don Shula in 1967-68, and Joe Gibbs in 1982-83. So don't count on it happening again in 2021 despite DraftKings Sportsbook having Stefanski in a three-way tie as favorite.

Therefore, we're handicapping the three best head coaching candidates who can win the award. The return on these bets is excellent so don't be afraid to lay money on each one. Vote and comment below for who you think is the best bet.

Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers (+1300)

Tied for the favorite to win the award, I can't help but still gravitate towards Brandon Staley to win NFL Coach of the Year in 2021. The new Chargers' coach quickly came to rise with the Rams and established his creativity.

The Rams' defense improved after transitioning from Wade Phillips to Staley. Though he was only with the team one year in that capacity, the unit jumped from a middling performer to the top-pass defense and top-three run defense. And he did it with little depth.

The obvious stars Aaron Donald, John Johnson and Jalen Ramsey only got the defense so far under Phillips. Staley had the unit swarming and opportunistic in new ways because this was a more fluid and versatile scheme. The thought of Staley doing similar things with a better overall defense with the Chargers is exciting.

He also inherited a much better offense than what the Rams had. Justin Herbert and his surrounding cast can produce a top-10 unit. The combination should lead to double-digit wins and a playoff berth if both Staley and Herbert live up to the hype. 

Jumping three or more games is good enough to win the award. I don't love taking the favorite but he's worth the lower odds to lock in now. 

Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team (+1600)

Washington Football Team has been one of the big winners this offseason. Sure, it would've been nice if they traded up for Justin Fields and locked in the face of their franchise but they otherwise did as well as they could. This is a well-balanced roster that'll grind out close games all year long.

Coming off a seven-win season with the fourth-ranked defense, the Football Team has arguably the scariest front-seven in the league. They have a deep rotation of pass-rushers to penetrate the pocket and the addition of Jamin Davis at linebacker completes the unit nicely. WFT has five first-rounders since 2017 starting, and the secondary received a facelift with William Jackson's signing.

It's the offense that'll define their season, though. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't good enough to make this team a competitor for more than a divisional title but it's a solid upgrade from Alex Smith's corpse and Dwayne Haskins' half-hearted efforts. Washington wisely surrounded him with Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown.

Washington may throw for more than 5,000 yards exclusively through deep passes with this set of playmakers. Rivera's a respected head coach, and seeing this team leap to double-digit wins could land him his second NFL Coach of the Year Award.

Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears (+3000)

Our longshot play is directly tied to their upgrade at quarterback. The Bears boldly traded up to land Fields at 11th overall. The combination of Andy Dalton and Fields will give this Bears team greater upside than what we've seen from the franchise in many years.

The 2020 Bears disappointed with an 8-8 finish. The defense sagged as the offense simply couldn't get it done throughout the year. It was clear how the team failed to rally around Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles.

The pieces around them are legitimately good, though. Losing Charles Leno and Kyle Fuller will hurt this otherwise quality roster but they could mitigate those veteran cuts. Signing one or both of Morgan Moses and Bashaud Breeland has been rumored and makes perfect sense.

This roster has few holes if they can shore up the corner position in particular. We predict Fields will win the job over Dalton by the bye week, if not sooner. His dynamic ability as a passer and rusher can transcend what was a good scheme filled with mediocre players.

Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney are worthwhile studs, and David Montgomery headlines a great, versatile backfield. With all of these pieces, Nagy can shock everyone with a monstrous 11-win season if he plays his hand with Fields correctly. That'd net us a huge profit on this prop.

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