Most weekdays from now until the Packers and Seahawks kick off on September 4th, The Big Lead will detail one reason we are excited for football season to begin. Including today, we’re 10 days away from NCAA and 17 from NFL.
Jason Garrett is the Vegas favorite to be fired first this year. This is a story that has everything: our love of watching train wrecks, the Dallas Cowboys (repetitive), and Jerry Jones. Combine them, and Garrett is going off the board as the leader to get canned before the end of the season.
Speculating on coaches is a relatively new phenomenon, or at least it’s picked up steam in recent years. I did an archive search in lexis, and turned up a random one with Danny Sheridan in 1990. He installed Ron Meyer of the Colts as the favorite in 1990. It turned out as accurate as his Twitter follower count, and Meyer made it through the season (only to be fired 5 games into the next one).
After that, it really didn’t pick up again until 2001. That year, Dick Jauron–the patron-coach saint of the “who will be fired first?” cause–was the favorite. The Bears went 13-3, with a pythagorean win expectation of 5.6 wins (guessing on that last one, will look it up later). It was also interesting to see Bill Belichick listed as the third favorite.
Since 2001, more than half of the coaches who were identified as the favorites to be fired first were in fact fired before the start of the next season. Others had turnarounds that saved their jobs temporarily: Marty Schottenheimer in San Diego, Romeo Crennel and that magical Derek Anderson season in Cleveland, the aforementioned Jauron.
Here’s the thing, though. In order to get paid, you have to get the first one, and that’s hard. A couple of years, no one was fired in season. Most of the guys viewed as most likely to be gone first made it to the end of the year, and I think that is the most likely fate for Garrett.
I couldn’t find accurate info on 2010, but Wade Phillips of the Cowboys was fired first and I think it unlikely he was the #1 favorite coming off the only Cowboys’ playoff win in two decades. Three of the guys identified as the favorites entering the season were actually fired first: Lane Kiffin only 4 games into the 2008 season (fired the same week as Linehan), Jauron in 2009 (out of three times he has been the favorite), and Del Rio in 2011, who was fired just ahead of Todd Haley and Tony Sparano.
While 3 out of 13 is better than random, it’s also not that great when the offered odds for the preseason favorite are usually 3 to 1 or shorter. (Garrett is identified as 2 to 1, for example).
The odds are pretty good at identifying a coach that needs a good season to be back for another. More often than not, the real first coach fired comes from an unexpected place. Gary Kubiak was the correct choice last year, not Rex Ryan. Kubiak was coming off consecutive playoff appearances and entered the season with the Texans as the division favorite.
The most common are guys who have been there, often for awhile, and won games, but have a collapse: Wannstedt in Miami in 2004, Dan Reeves in Atlanta in 2003, Martz in St. Louis in 2005, Phillips in 2010, Kubiak last year. Your best guess is to take a chance on a veteran coach who is not expected to fail, but could collapse spectacularly. Everyone’s watching Garrett.
But hey, this is silly coach season, and one of the crazy cottage industries that has built up as we approach the start of the season.
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