NFL Coaching Changes Have Less Impact on Odds Than CFB Counterparts

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The turnstile of NFL and college head coaching movement has reinforced a truism in modern sports betting: the person taking the snaps matters much more to betting lines than the person calling the plays.

While a star quarterback’s absence can move lines several points, according to oddsmakers, coaches barely move the needle. That’s especially true in the NFL, said DraftKings director of race and sportsbook Johnny Avello.

“If [players] are locked into a guy and he gets fired for doing something unethical, but then the team’s playing well, that makes an impact,” he said. “But if the team’s not playing well … what’s the difference?”

“You’re bringing a new guy and maybe, maybe the team’s looking for it to shake up a little bit to take things in a different direction.”

McDaniels, Reich, and Staley Made Few Betting Ripples

The recent terminations of three NFL head coaches — Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas), Frank Reich (Carolina), and Brandon Staley (LA Chargers) — had little impact on betting lines.

The Raiders opened the season at +320 to make the playoffs at Tipico and were +2000 after the firing. The Raiders were 3-5 when McDaniels was fired and have gone 3-3 under Antonio Pierce.

The Panthers fired Reich with the team 1-10. At Tipico, Carolina opened the season at +200 to make the playoffs and had lengthened to +1700 by the week after the firing. The Panthers have gone 1-2 since the firing with Chris Tabor in charge.

Teams expected to struggle performed to specifications despite the coach and the odds corresponded.

College Defections from Good Teams Do Matter

Oddsmakers say there can be slightly more impact in college, depending on the depth of coaching talent in the program. And why there’s a vacancy.

A three-game suspension for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh impacted betting lines as minimally as it did the Wolverines’ performance.

“Harbaugh went out for Michigan for a few games and that line really didn’t move much because I think the team was already prepared,” Avello said. “They have the game plan. The offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator can take over and run that team following that game plan.”

Surprise departures from successful teams can matter, though, Avello said.

“When a coach bolts on a game, like a New Mexico State or a Fresno State loses a coach, it’s not going to impact it much in a bowl game. If it’s one of the major teams, if Harbaugh was to leave Michigan before this game, this playoff game coming up with Alabama, that certainly would have some impact, only be because it would affect, not for the coaching standpoint, but probably the emotions of the entire team,” he explained. “They’re losing their leader and everybody would have a different mindset.

“I do remember a game with Alabama a couple years ago where Nick Saban didn’t coach. It was announced he wasn’t going to coach, and the line dropped two points. I think we dropped at a point and the bettors knocked it down another point. So it depends on the situation, who they’re playing, uh, what the impact is for the players. If the players are prepared, knowing a coach is leaving. I don’t think it affects it so much.”

About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Senior Writer
Brant James is a senior writer at Gaming Today. He has covered the sports betting industry in the United States since before professional sports teams even knew what an official gaming partnership entailed.

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