2020 NFL Coach of the Year Longshots To Consider

Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve been looking at longshot bets for the last month or so on The Draft Network, including Defensive Player of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Heisman, and MVP. In this installment, I’m stepping off the gridiron and onto the sideline to look at Coach of the Year. 

The Coach of the Year award has some clear trends to it, but that doesn’t make it all that easy to predict. In eight of the last 10 seasons, the winner of the award has won his division, with the only two seasons without division wins both belonging to Bruce Arians (2012 and 2014). In 2012, Arians took over a 4-2 Colts team for head coach Chuck Pagano, who took a leave of absence for cancer treatment, and put up a 9-3 record to make the playoffs. In 2014, his Arizona Cardinals finished only one game behind the Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West.

So we’re looking for division winners—and, critically, we don’t want last year’s division winners, as again, eight out of 10 of the past winners were not repeat champions. John Harbaugh is the current holder of the award, and his Baltimore Ravens repeated as divisional champions in 2019 with a new QB at the helm. Ron Rivera took home the award in 2015 after a 2014 divisional win with a 7-8-1 record.

So we want the most likely division-winning head coaches, but not the ones who won it last year. 

As it stands, this is the list of NFL coaches and their odds to win the 2020 Coach of the Year award.

  • Bill Belichick (+1200)
  • Bruce Arians (+1200)
  • Mike McCarthy (+1400)
  • Frank Reich (+1600)
  • Andy Reid (+1800)
  • Kevin Stefanski (+1800)
  • Kliff Kingsbury (+1800)
  • Sean McDermott (+1800)
  • John Harbaugh (+2000)
  • Kyle Shanahan (+2000)
  • Brian Flores (+2500)
  • Doug Pederson (+2500)
  • Mike Vrabel (+2500)
  • Vic Fangio (+2500)
  • Mike Tomlin (+2800)
  • Mike Zimmer (+2800)
  • Pete Carroll (+2800)
  • Anthony Lynn (+3000)
  • Matt LaFleur (+3000)
  • Matt Nagy (+3000)
  • Sean McVay (+3000)
  • Sean Payton (+3000)
  • Dan Quinn (+3300)
  • Matt Patricia (+3300)
  • Matt Rhule (+3300)
  • Ron Rivera (+3300)

Removing the coaches who are returning division-winners, we land on:

  • Bruce Arians (+1200)
  • Mike McCarthy (+1400)
  • Frank Reich (+1600)
  • Kevin Stefanski (+1800)
  • Kliff Kingsbury (+1800)
  • Sean McDermott (+1800)
  • Brian Flores (+2500)
  • Mike Vrabel (+2500)
  • Vic Fangio (+2500)
  • Mike Tomlin (+2800)
  • Mike Zimmer (+2800)
  • Pete Carroll (+2800)
  • Anthony Lynn (+3000)
  • Matt Nagy (+3000)
  • Sean McVay (+3000)
  • Dan Quinn (+3300)
  • Matt Patricia (+3300)
  • Matt Rhule (+3300)
  • Ron Rivera (+3300)

Now, only three coaches have ever won the award at least three times—that’s Bill Belichick, Chuck Knox, and Don Shula (fun fact: Chuck Knox won it with three different teams!). Both Arians and Rivera have two awards, so neither is a good bet for taking home a third. 

We’re also going to knock out Vic Fangio, Kevin Stefanski, Mike Tomlin, Anthony Lynn, Dan Quinn, and Matt Rhule. All six of those coaches have a chance to win the division, of course, but in the AFC West (Chiefs), AFC North (Ravens), and NFC South (Saints/Bucs), their odds are too long to consider here. 

  • Mike McCarthy (+1400)
  • Frank Reich (+1600)
  • Kliff Kingsbury (+1800)
  • Sean McDermott (+1800)
  • Brian Flores (+2500)
  • Mike Vrabel (+2500)
  • Mike Zimmer (+2800)
  • Pete Carroll (+2800)
  • Matt Nagy (+3000)
  • Sean McVay (+3000)
  • Matt Patricia (+3300)

Now comes time for the tough question: who here has the best chance to win the division? Mike McCarthy and Frank Reich certainly stand out as potential division winners, but as the third- and fourth-highest odds available, don’t exactly constitute longshot bets. Of that top group, including McCarthy, Reich, Kingsbury, and McDermott, I like Reich the best and McDermott as a solid second.

But if we’re talking true longshots, we’re looking at this smaller group here: 

  • Brian Flores (+2500)
  • Mike Vrabel (+2500)
  • Mike Zimmer (+2800)
  • Pete Carroll (+2800)
  • Matt Nagy (+3000)
  • Sean McVay (+3000)
  • Matt Patricia (+3300)

So the question here is fairly simple: who has the best chance of winning their division?

I’m out on the Bears in 2020 given their quarterback situation, and I don’t think the Dolphins are strong enough yet to compete. The Rams and Seahawks are both good squads, but are playing in what projects to be the toughest division in the NFL, so I’ll step aside there. And while I think the Lions have a sneaky fun roster, there are fewer coaches in whom I have less faith in than Matt Patricia. 

So who’s left?

  • Mike Vrabel (+2500)
  • Mike Zimmer (+2800)

Dealer’s choice here. I think the Vikings are a better shot to win their division (+155, best in the NFC North) than the Titans (+185, second-best in the AFC South), and I consider the rosters fairly equivalent. The Titans do have the momentum now following their explosive end to the 2019 season, and I think narratively, there’s more going for Vrabel in his third year on the job than Zimmer, who’s held the job since 2014.

Both are quality bets here, but I give the edge to Vrabel, even with the slight lean of odds in his favor.

Written By:

Benjamin Solak

Director of Special Projects

Director of Special Projects and Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Locked On NFL Draft Podcast. The 3-Wide Raven.

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