A good argument could have easily been made for Ron Rivera winning Coach of the Year (COY) last season. He certainly did more with less than most coaches, but he did not do enough to warrant consideration.
Usually, a division title would have at least put him in the conversation. But when it only took seven wins to get it? Eh.
The expectations for Rivera and the Washington Football Team (WFT) heading into the 2021 season will be a little higher—but not too much. Dallas is favored to win the division. Washington, on the other hand, is not even expected to make the playoffs.
So, should the WFT make the postseason, then Rivera may have a shot to win his third COY. The Virginia sports betting odds certainly are not that bad for NFL Coach of the Year 2021-2022 at BetMGM Virginia:
- Kevin Stefanski +1200
- Sean McVay +1400
- Kyle Shanahan +1600
- Arthur Smith +1600
- Brandon Staley +1800
- Brian Flores +1800
- Frank Reich +1800
- Sean McDermott +1800
- Arthur Smith +1800
- Robert Saleh +1800
- Ron Rivera +1900
- Bill Belichick +2000
- John Harbaugh +2000
- Bruce Arians +2000
- Matt Rhule +2500
- Sean Payton +2500
- Joe Judge +2500
- Vic Fangio +2500
- Mike Zimmer +2500
- Matt Nagy +2500
- Mike Vrabel +2500
- Pete Carroll +3000
- Matt LaFleur +3000
- Mike McCarthy +3500
- Urban Meyer +3500
- Mike Tomlin +3500
- Kliff Kingsbury +3500
- Jon Gruden +4000
- Dan Campbell +5000
- Nick Sirianni +5000
- Zak Taylor +6600
- David Culley +6600
But is he a good bet to win?
COY Is All About Exceeding Expectations
Conversations involving COY candidates often revolve around the head coaches of the best teams in the league, the ones with the most wins and the highest-scoring offenses. But COY is not about just winning games and scoring points. It is about exceeding expectations.
When Ron Rivera won COY for the 2015 season (+4000 preseason odds), no one had thought the Panthers would have gone 15-1 that season. The following year, it was shocking to see Jason Garrett and the chronically underperforming Dallas Cowboys go 13-3 (+2800).
There were high hopes for Sean McVay when he became the youngest head coach in NFL history when he took over the Los Angeles Rams back in 2017. But an 11-5 season and division title a year after going 4-12?
Yeah, no one saw that coming either (+5000).
Guiding a team to a better-than-expected finish is the key to winning COY honors. No one expected the Baltimore Ravens to go 14-2 in Lamar Jackson's first full season under center (John Harbaugh's preseason odds were +2800).
While fans hoped Kevin Stefanski could turn around the terminally bad Cleveland Browns, there was no reason to think it would actually happen (+2000).
Then how come the favorite is last year's winner, Stefanski? After an 11-5 season in 2020, fans will have high expectations for the Browns in 2021. It is going to be hard for the Browns to exceed expectations this season.
Other than the fact that he won last year, it is hard to say why Stefanski is the favorite. Someone has to be the favorite, and it is just easier to make the favorite last year's winner. But it is also worth noting that his odds only give him a 6.25-7.69 percent chance of winning.
So, being the favorite does not mean that much for COY since everyone has long odds.
Making A Case For Ron Rivera To Win COY
The problem Ron Rivera is going to have this season is his defense. Because it is as good as it is, the WFT will be expected to be competitive in probably every game this season. That means the bar will be set a little higher than usual for the team entering the season.
But the bar is not going to be set too high. Washington's odds are the second-best in the division at +200, not too far back from the Dallas Cowboys (+135). While they are expected to cover the over on their win total (8.5), they are not favored to make the playoffs (Yes +110, No -140).
Expectations are higher than they have been for Washington, but they are still low enough that a good season should put Rivera in the conversation for COY. What will qualify as a good season? They will probably need to win at least ten games, make the playoffs, and maybe repeat as division champs.
Can Washington do it?
As previously stated, the defense will keep the team competitive. But the question is whether the offense will be good enough to turn close games into wins. While there is talent at the skill positions, the offensive line is mediocre (16th in PFF's rankings).
With an older quarterback behind center (Fitzpatrick will be 39 in November), that could be the nail in the coffin. On the other hand, if Rivera must go with Kyle Allen or Taylor Heinicke and Washington still wins games, his case will get stronger.
There is value in betting on Rivera to win COY and very soon in Maryland, you will have that chance as Maryland sports betting launches later this year. His team is good, but not so good on paper that they are expected to contend for the Super Bowl or the NFC title. While their odds are second best in the NFC East, that could be because expectations for the Giants and Eagles are so low.
Rivera's best shot will come with either Allen or Heinicke at quarterback. The expectations with Fitzpatrick behind center may be too high. But, while there is value in betting on Rivera, too many candidates have better blueprints to win COY than him, to call him a 'good bet.'