Typically in the NFL there is a rough transition when a new coach joins a football team. That new head man has so much to deal with – getting to know the players he has, addressing weaknesses, implementing new systems, changing the philosophy, hiring coordinators, and so on – that it almost always takes a while for the coach to make real progress. Once in a while, though, a NFL coach will hit the ground running and his new team will be dynamic and explosive right out of the gate. Needless to say, being able to spot which coaches have the potential to start strong could be very valuable for bettors, helping them make winning NFL picks. Here are nine clues that a coach could start surprisingly strong:
Why was the coaching change made? – Most times the reason a coaching change was made was because the football team was underperforming and the coach wasn’t getting through to the players. Sometimes, though, there are other reasons – retirement, moving on to another job, moving to the front office, and so on. If the coach left for reasons other than underperformance then chances are that the team is in better shape and the coach is in a better situation to compete hard right away.
Where were the most glaring problem areas? – There are two types of problems that a team has – the kind that can be easily fixed, and the kind that will take a lot more time. For example, if a NFL team seems to lack intensity then a new coach can address that quickly. A new coach could also easily design plays to better utilize core players. If the team struggles because of lack of talent and depth, though, then that will take longer to fix.
How much of a style change is the new coach? – Teams can go two different ways in hiring a new coach. They can hire a guy who is fundamentally similar to what they had before, or they can go in a completely different direction. Neither approach is necessarily better, but the coach with similar philosophies and approaches will have an easier time early on because he’ll have less dramatic changes to make.
What personnel changes were made? – NFL teams typically make several personnel changes in the offseason, and they will likely make more when they are dealing with a coaching change. It’s important to look at what changes the team has made and what early impact it will have. Are the players experienced, or will they have to get used to playing in the NFL? Are the players familiar with playing in the system they will be asked to play, or will they have to adjust? Is chemistry a concern?
Who do they play early on? – An easy early schedule is a gift to a new football coach trying to establish himself. Ideally, weak teams played primarily at home would be best of course. On the other hand, a tough schedule against established, tough teams on the road could make for a rough start regardless of how much fast progress the new coach can make.
What’s the coach’s background? – The more familiar a coach is with what it takes to coach in the NFL the easier the transition can be because he doesn’t have to learn his job from scratch. It’s also easier for him to win over his players if he has credibility already established. That’s why it’s often easier for an NFL assistant with a lot of experience to find his way than it is for a college coach making the transition. A coach with previous head coaching experience can be in very good shape, too, though he could be handicapped by his reputation if his last time ended badly. One occasional exception to the normal rules is if a guy is new to NFL head coaching but he has had a lot of experience in the NFL as a player. Jim Harbaugh, for example, hadn’t coached in the NFL before taking over San Francisco other than a brief stint as a QB coach in Oakland, but his years of experience as an NFL QB gave him the experience and credibility to get through to his players quickly.
Who is he bringing with him? – Head coaches rely heavily on their coordinators – especially when trying to implement new systems and introducing philosophies. The more familiarity he has with his coordinators the easier the transition will be because they will share philosophies and will have a working relationship already established. The more of his staff he has worked with before the more likely he is to succeed quickly.
How does the public view the team and the coach? – From a betting perspective it’s important for NFL handicappers to get a sense of how the public views the football team because that will have a big impact on early spreads and therefore the teams ability to reward bettors. Is the public optimistic about the hire and excited about the team? Or are they pessimistic given the bad previous performance and underwhelmed by the coaching hire?
How did the team really perform last year? – What happened last year is what the new coach has to build from, so it’s important to get a real sense of what actually happened. Sometimes a record isn’t a good indicator of how good a football team really is. Maybe they lost a lot of close games, or they had a strong offense that was hidden by a weakened defense or a lot of injuries. Maybe they played a particularly hard schedule. The more you can get to know about how a NFL team actually performed the better off you will be as a sports handicapper - especially if the team didn’t perform like most people will think they did.