Last season, Mike Vrabel won the NFL coach of the year award. While it was certainly well deserved, it was a bit of a deviation from the history of this award. The 2020 Tennessee Titans went 11-5, the 2021 Titans went 12-5. Sure, Vrabel navigated some key injuries to the likes of Derrick Henry and Titans ended up being the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. I'm not saying that Vrabel didn't deserve the award, but Vrabel's 2021 resume doesn't line up with most previous winners of the award. Usually coaches of previously good teams that stay good don't win the award.
Normally, the award is given to a coach that presides over an impressive year-to-year turnaround. Often, it's a coach in his first season with a new team. But for the most part, if a team goes from bad to good, that coach will be in the mix for the award. Therefore, it shouldn't be shocking to see that the most popular bet to win the award this year coaches a team that had just three wins last season.
Bettors love Dan Campbell
Dan Campbell became a fan favorite immediately when during his introductory press conference, he vowed his team would bite kneecaps off. On the field though, his first season wasn't great. The Lions went 3-13-1. The team fought hard, lost a lot of heartbreakers, but the results weren't there. They finished with the second worst record in the NFL.
Things did improve as the season went on. The Lions went 3-3 in their last six games after opening the season 0-10-1. They should be healthier this season than they were last year. The team added serious talent in the draft with Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams. They signed some important free agents like D.J. Chark, Mike Hughes and DeShon Elliott.
After winning just three games last year, the win total for Detroit is set at over/under 6.5 wins in 2022. That's tied for the largest projected improvement in the league, and bettors still absolutely love the over. No team is receiving more over bets on their season win total than the Lions. As of last week at BetMGM, 94% of bets and 95% of the money was backing Detroit to go over 6.5 wins.
If bettors like the Lions to be vastly improved, it makes sense they would like Dan Campbell to win coach of the year. That is certainly the case. Dan Campbell is currently the betting favorite to win the award at 12-to-1. He's tied for the best odds with Brian Daboll of the Giants.
As the favorite, Campbell is receiving the most action by a wide margin. Almost one-third of all bets placed are backing Campbell to win the award. No other coach is getting more than 6% of the action. Campbell is far and away the biggest liability for BetMGM in the market.
Other popular bets
While nobody is getting nearly as much action as Dan Campbell, these are some other coaches getting some love in the betting market:
Nathaniel Hackett (16-to-1): Nathaniel Hackett is entering his first season as the Broncos head coach. He's an appealing bet, because a first year head coach taking a non-playoff team to the playoffs is a good example of who wins this award. Denver is favored to make the playoffs this upcoming season. The only issue I have with the bet is how much credit will Hackett get for a potential turnaround? It seems like Russell Wilson might steal most of that positive press. Nevertheless, Hackett is the second most popular bet at 16-to-1, getting 5.7% of the action.
Sean McDermott (25-to-1): Sean McDermott is already an established coach of a very good team. That's probably why his odds are a little bit higher. Outside of Vrabel last year, this type of coach's best bet to win the award is if they have simply a tremendous season where they only lose 2 or 3 games. That's certainly in the range of outcomes for Buffalo. McDermott is the third most popular bet, getting 5.4% of the action.
Frank Reich (20-to-1): Frank Reich is 21-11 as a head coach when he received average or better quarterback play from Andrew Luck in 2018 and Philip Rivers in 2020. He's only 16-17 when saddled with Jacoby Brissett or Carson Wentz. Matt Ryan should be good enough for Reich to get results. He's the fourth most popular bet.
Mike Tomlin (20-to-1): It seems like the betting market and a lot of football media are convinced it will be a down year for the Steelers. However, Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season and he competed for a playoff spot a few years ago with Duck Hodges. If he can get Mitch Trubisky (or Kenny Pickett) to produce wins, Tomlin will get love. He's the fifth most popular bet, getting 4.3% of bets.
It's worth noting that some of the least popular bets are considered some of the very best coaches in the league. Andy Reid (35-to-1), Kyle Shanahan (16-to-1) and Sean McVay (25-to-1) are in the bottom-10 in terms of number of bets they've received. It makes sense when you consider the narrative angle of the award. There's not much more those coaches can do to impress us.