Trivia question: Who is the only guy to win the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year Award with a losing record? Give up? Dallas' Jimmy Johnson in 1990 with a 7-9 mark. Here's guessing that won't happen this year. Here are the odds from BetOnline.
Rivera Unlikely Winner In 2013
If you put down money on Carolina's Ron Rivera to win the 2013 Coach of the Year Award after Week 5 last season, then you are much smarter than I am. Rivera was probably one more loss from being fired. The Panthers came out of their Week 4 bye and were clobbered 22-6 at Arizona to fall to 1-3. Had Carolina lost Week 6 at Minnesota, I fully believe Rivera would have been canned. But the Panthers rolled the Vikings and would lose just once more in the regular season on the way to winning the NFC South. Rivera got an extension, although I could see a scenario where the Panthers struggle this year and he's a goner.
Here are the candidates on the prop.
Bill Belichick, Patriots (+800): Belichick has won this award three times, last in 2010 when the Patriots were 14-2. Remember, this is just a regular-season award and has nothing to do with playoff success. Belichick would tie Don Shula's record of four with another award this year. The problem I see with Belichick being favored is that New England was good last year and should be in 2014. That's not usually the scenario where the coach is rewarded. It's generally when a bad team has a big turnaround.
John Fox, Broncos (+1000): Fox falls under the same category as Belichick in my opinion. Plus, let's be honest here. Fox isn't the coach of the Broncos. Peyton Manning is. I suppose if the Broncos went unbeaten after 13-3 a year ago then Fox would deserve it. But really the Broncos can only go down. With their schedule, getting 13 wins again would be a surprise.
Pete Carroll, Seahawks (+1200): Are you noticing a trend on this prop? The site is clearly just listing guys who are in charge of good teams. Perhaps the voters reward Carroll for what the Seahawks did last season in winning their first Super Bowl. It's just hard to see how the team can improve upon what it did in 2013 and thus have Carroll deserve this award. Seattle has looked awfully good this preseason, however.
Sean Payton, Saints (+1200): Payton won this award in 2006 when the Saints were 10-6 and this team is better than that one. Should New Orleans grab the No. 1 seed in the powerhouse NFC, which is quite possible, then that would look very good on Payton's resume and likely give him the nod.
Chip Kelly, Eagles (+1400): I thought that Kelly should have won this award last season for what his innovative offense did in turning Nick Foles into a star. I don't think Foles puts up those numbers in any other system but Kelly's. I also believe there will be some regression for Foles, meaning the Eagles aren't likely to surpass last season's 10 wins.
Jim Harbaugh, 49ers (+1400): I'm starting to get a suspicion that the 49ers might be in for a bit of a tough season. I realize the preseason is meaningless, but it's worrisome how lousy they have looked. Remember, too, that the San Francisco defense will be missing two of its best players, linebackers Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman, for perhaps half the season each. Smith's suspension should be handed down any day and Bowman is coming back from a brutal leg injury. Plus there's talk of friction between Harbaugh, the 2011 winner of this award, and the front office over his contract, which only runs through 2015.
Mike McCarthy, Packers (+1400): The Packers won just eight games last year after losing Aaron Rodgers for half the season, so a jump to 12 wins or so would bode well for McCarthy's chances of winning this award. I just worry about the Green Bay defense, especially after losing nose tackle B.J. Raji for the season to a tear in his right biceps.
Mike Smith, Falcons (+1800): Finally, we get to a coach who was in charge of a bad team in 2013 but that looks very capable of a giant rebound in 2013. Smith won this award back in 2008 when the Falcons were 11-5.
Bill O'Brien, Texans (+2000): Houston should be leaps and bounds better than last year's 2-14 mark. The defense looks potentially terrific with the addition of Jadeveon Clowney alongside J.J. Watt. Those two will create havoc. The offense should at least be decent as long as Ryan Fitzpatrick avoids mistakes. This would be a Super Bowl contender with a better quarterback, so if O'Brien drags 10 wins out of this club with Fitzpatrick he deserves the award.
Chuck Pagano, Colts (+2000): Bruce Arians won this award in 2012 with the Colts as the interim coach while Pagano was away getting leukemia treatment. I'd find it hard to believe the award would go to a Colts coach yet again so soon. If anything, Indy might take a step back this year because it's not a great roster other than Andrew Luck.
NFL picks: Go with Smith, who gets a little popularity