Coaches are hired to be fired, and the football odds say Jon Gruden is the first man on the chopping block. Have things really gotten that desperate in Washington?
Who says it's not all right to profit off the misfortune of others? The NFL odds are out at Ladbrokes for which NFL head coach will get fired first this year – it's like betting on who'll win Super Bowl 50, except for the winning part. Washington's Jay Gruden leads the way at 13-8, followed at press time by Mike Pettine of the Cleveland Browns (9-2) and Ken Whisenhunt (7-1) of the Tennessee Titans.
That's quite the gap between Gruden and the rest of the pack. Sure, Washington is one of the more dysfunctional programs in the league, which is saying a lot. But I personally don't recall hearing much on the “Fire Gruden” front. Time to send out our roving team of intrepid reporters and find out the real story behind Gruden's gloomy NFL odds. Of course, by “roving team of intrepid reporters,” I mean Google.
Okay, we've searched for “Fire Gruden” to see how many results come up. We also did searches for the other top favorites to get the ax. Jeeves, drum roll please...
Fire Gruden! 1,230
Fire Pettine! 1,930
Fire Whisenhunt! 1,970
Fire Payton! 3,710
What's this? Fire Sean Payton (8-1), the head coach who turned around the New Orleans Saints and led them to a Super Bowl victory? Fire Sean Payton, the highest-paid head coach in the NFL? These Google searches aren't a perfect reflection of public sentiment – some of the results for Whisenhunt are stories about his 2012 dismissal from the Arizona Cardinals – but if any of these four coaches needs to be worried about his near-term employment, it could be Payton.
Which does make sense at a certain level. Gruden, Pettine and Whisenhunt are all about to enter the second year of their coaching contracts. None of them was expected to turn his awful team's fortunes around right away. We should also point out that Gruden is on a 5-year, $20-million guaranteed contract. Smart man. Payton's job, on the other hand, could be on the line after the Saints went 7-9 (6-10 ATS) last year. Expectations are higher.
We're still not buying it. There isn't anything substantial out there to tell us that Payton's job is in real jeopardy – not that we're privy to every little thing going on behind closed doors in the Big Easy. Besides, if you search for “Fire Belichick,” you'll find 8,470 results. We're fairly confident that Bill Belichick's head coaching gig with the New England Patriots is secure for the moment.
We're also not going to overlook the possibility of those aforementioned second-year coaches not making it to Year Three. Both Washington and Cleveland have burned through several coaches over the past decade; the Titans don't seem nearly as dysfunctional, although Jeff Fisher's 16-year reign might be clouding our judgment. We'd single Pettine out as the likely first casualty among the three sophomores.
Dance with Joe
The best NFL betting value with specials like this is usually found in the second tier of contenders, just like it is on the futures market. We're looking at two gentlemen in particular at 16-1: Joe Philbin of the Miami Dolphins, and Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars. These coaches have been with their teams long enough that if things don't go well early on this year, they could be the first ones out the door.
We'll also throw an intriguing third-tier contender at you: Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants (25-1). But there's a catch. Coughlin has been with the Giants since 2004, and he's 68 years old. There's every chance the Giants could “force” Coughlin into early retirement rather than fire him outright. We're going to add Philbin to our football picks instead, and try not to cheer actively for his demise. Never make it personal.
Free NFL Pick: Take Philbin 16-1 at Ladbrokes