Staley and Shanahan among favorites in 2021 NFL Coach of the Year odds
San Francisco 49ers offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan, first-year Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley, and reigning Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski are projected to duke it out for the 2021 NFL Coach of the Year Award, according to early odds from TwinSpires Sports.
The trio of coaches share the lowest odds (+1300) to claim the esteemed honor, while third-year Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and 2017 Coach of the Year Sean McVay fall next in line on the odds board (+1400).
Coach of the Year 2021/2022
Sun, February 6 2022, 11:00 PM
Shanahan's 49ers primed for bounce-back season
Shanahan nearly won Coach of the Year in 2019, when he led San Francisco to a 13-3 record and reached Super Bowl LIV, where his team held a lead over Kansas City until 2:44 was remaining in the fourth quarter.
Following his Super Bowl loss, Shanahan finished with the second-most votes (14.5) for Coach of the Year, behind winner John Harbaugh (27.5 votes), who guided the Baltimore Ravens to a league-best 14-2 record with MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson in command of the team's retooled offense.
In 2019, Shanahan's squad endured a slew of injuries to star players, like running back Raheem Mostert, tight end George Kittle, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, to name a few.
Despite playing with QBs C.J. Beathard & Nick Mullens from weeks 4-17, the 49ers averaged 9.3 YPA on first down passes last year, #1 BEST in the NFL.— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) July 15, 2019
And it came vs #12 toughest schedule of pass Ds.
(7th highest play action % on these passes.)
Kyle Shanahan can coach!!
The hobbled Niners posted a 6-10 record but should be a threat in the NFC West once again, now that their key pieces are healthy.
Garoppolo is the biggest question mark of the offseason, as he faces competition on the depth chart from No. 3 overall draft pick Trey Lance. Shanahan has refused to say whether the dual-threat prospect out of North Dakota State will start this season, but the option is there.
If Shanahan can transform Lance into a superstar rookie and take the Niners on another run, Shanahan will become the prime candidate for this year's Coach of the Year trophy.
NFL Coach of the Year trends fit Staley better than Stefanski
Staley will get a crack at his first NFL head coaching job this season, with a Chargers roster brimming with potential.
Second-year quarterback Justin Herbert won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020, after he set NFL rookie records for touchdown passes (31) and most 300-yard passing games (eight).
In 2021, he will get a huge upgrade at offensive line, with the addition of former Green Bay Packers center Corey Linsley, plus guards Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi, and 2021 first-round draft pick Rashawn Slater. Tight end Jared Cook will also offer Herbert a new weapon, as the replacement for free-agency departure Hunter Henry.
To win Coach of the Year, Staley will need to push the Chargers another step forward and send them to the postseason. The team finished 7-9 last year and ranked ninth in total offense and 10th in total defense.
Based on the last four winners of Coach of the Year, Staley is in perfect position to collect the award.
Dating back to 2017, McVay, Matt Nagy of the Chicago Bears, and Stefanski each won Coach of the Year as first-year hires who were able to turn the tide of their franchises. Harbaugh is the exception, as he received Coach of the Year for his 12th season in Baltimore, because of the revolutionary offense he installed in 2019.
Last year's Coach of the Year, Stefanski, will likely need a Super Bowl run to win the award again.
The odds are not in his favor, considering only three coaches have won the award consecutively: Allie Sherman in 1961 and 1962, Don Shula in 1967 and 1968, and most recently, Joe Gibbs in 1982 and 1983.
Intriguing Coach of the Year longshots
In his second season as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Frank Reich oversaw a roster built for a Super Bowl run. That all came crashing down, as Andrew Luck announced his sudden retirement ahead of the 2019 season and injuries further derailed what could have been a prosperous season.
The following year, the Colts signed Philip Rivers to a one-year contract, went 11-5, and made it to the Wild Card Round of the postseason, where they lost by a field goal to Buffalo.
In 2021, Reich will coach another new quarterback, Carson Wentz, whom he worked with while offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles. Wentz is in search of a career renaissance, while Reich hopes to lead Indy to its first division title since 2014.
Should Wentz revitalize his career in Indy, and the Colts go deep in the postseason, Reich will be a frontrunner for Coach of the Year.
The Eagles have traded Carson Wentz to the Colts, per @AdamSchefter.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 18, 2021
Wentz is reunited with Colts HC Frank Reich, who was Philadelphia’s OC in 2016-17. In their last season together, Wentz led the league in Total QBR (78.5) and threw an Eagles franchise record 33 Pass TD. pic.twitter.com/yJ7MIawMHM
Bills head coach Sean McDermott is another candidate who has become a recent fixture in the Coach of the Year discussion.
McDermott garnered two Coach of the Year votes in 2019 and the second most (seven) last year, following Buffalo's 13-3 regular season and AFC Championship Game appearance. It'll probably take a Super Bowl win to earn him the award, but that isn't out of the question. The Bills have the third-lowest odds (+1200) to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Best bet to win Coach of the Year
Based on recent Coach of the Year trends, the most likely winner of the 2021 award will either be a new hire who pulled off a franchise overhaul or a seasoned coach who shook up his game plan to reboot his team.
Shanahan has the pieces to make it back to a Super Bowl in his fifth year as head coach. With Lance potentially assuming starting quarterback duties, we could see a whole new dynamic in San Francisco, with a multifaceted offense reminiscent of the one Harbaugh employed in Baltimore with Jackson.
The Niners boast the top odds to win the NFC West and the fifth-lowest odds to win the Super Bowl.
Look for Shanahan to revive the Niners and accept Coach of the Year, the honor he arguably should have won in 2019.