The NFL is an unforgiving league for head coaches. If a coach doesn’t show instant results or at least the promise of success in the near future, front offices are swift to swing the ax. There are seven new head coaches in the NFL this season, some of which are fresh to the head coaching ranks while others have a history of wearing the headset.
We look at a few of these coaches and handicapping tips, their teams, and their chances to cash in for football bettors against the NFL pointspreads this fall:
Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans
Vrabel is a first-time head coach, earning the Titans big job after serving as a line backers coach and defensive coordinator in Houston. But let’s not also pass over the fact that he’s a soft connection to the Bill Belichick coaching tree, having played under “The Hoodie” in New England from 2001 to 2008. He’ll bring a lot of good habits to a team that is on the brink of being great, but is in desperate need of direction.
The Titans defense will be better under Vrabel but their ability to cover the spread lies with an inconsistent offense, which is hoping new coordinator Matt LaFleur can work the same magic he did with the L.A. Rams last season. The talent is there – on the field and on the sideline – for Tennessee to be a solid ATS play each Sunday.
Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals
Wilks inherits the remains of one of the NFC’s best teams over the past decade. Arizona is falling fast, with troubles on the field and off. General manager Steve Keim got busted for DUI and president (also son of the owner) Michael Bidwill has been criticized for his take on the whole anthem mess. On the field, the Cardinals’ two most important players – QB Sam Bradford and RB David Johnson – are coming off injuries in 2017 and star WR Larry Fitzgerald is well in the twilight of his career.
Wilks is a defensive-first coach, coming over from Carolina, where he helped make the Panthers one of the top stop units in the league. Arizona was a solid group on defense last season, allowing only 311 yards per game (8th best in the NFL). That’s a big reason why the Cards finished 6-10 Over/Under in 2017. With those questions on offense (and a playbook that will rely heavily on the run) – and rookie QB Josh Rosen as the Plan B under center – Arizona is once again a good Under play but can’t be trusted to cover the spread.
Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders
Raiders bettors should prepare for plenty of “Spider 2 Y Banana” in the playbook, with Gruden making the move back to the sideline after spending time in the Monday Night Football booth. Oakland is coming off a massively disappointing season in 2017 after contending for the AFC title in 2016. The offense was a toothless joke and the defense only went as far as Khalil Mack could carry it. The Silver and Black has bettors in the red, posting a costly 5-9-2 ATS mark last year.
With Gruden comes a lot of pomp and circumstance, but he hasn’t coached a team since his final year with Tampa Bay back in 2008. That’s a decade in between gigs and calling out plays on TV is whole lot different than solving those riddles on the sideline. The NFL has changed dramatically in that time, and as we’ve seen with coaches making victory laps in the past – Ditka, Shanahan, Smith, even Vince Lombardi – it doesn’t always meet expectations.
Oakland’s offense looks good on paper: Derek Carr, Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, Martavis Bryant, Marshawn Lynch, and a great offensive line. But they’re working with a new West Coast playbook and will take time to find their stride. The defense is nothing special – outside of Mack – and that could be reason enough to steer clear of Oakland’s spreads, at least in the first few weeks of the schedule.