There are a myriad of lessons and adjustments all rookie NFL head coaches must make. For those who find success, it can take them a few years to hit their stride. For many, success never comes.
But for a select few throughout NFL history, the first year as an NFL head coach has presented a chance to completely overhaul a franchise over the course of one offseason and four-month regular season. A chance to have their names chiseled in stone in NFL history as first-year coaches who earned the prestigious Coach of the Year Award.
Now, the Jacksonville Jaguars will find out if new head coach Urban Meyer is closer to joining the ranks of historic first-year head coaches or closer to joining the countless waves of first-year flameouts.
According to Covers, Meyer has 35/1 (+3500) odds to win Coach of the Year in 2021. According to Covers, this carries an implied probability of 2.78% and makes him the 24th-likeliest winner.
Meyer isn't closer to the bottom of the list due entirely to his title as a rookie head coach. First-year head coaches Brandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers (16/1), Robert Saleh of the New York Jets (18/1), and Arthur Smith of the Atlanta Falcons (25/1) all have odds within the top-14, with Staley placing as the fifth-likeliest winner and Saleh as the ninth-likeliest.
With this in Mind, Covers does have Meyer with better odds than Dan Campbell of the Detroit Lions (50/1), Nick Sirianni of the Philadelphia Eagles (50/1), and David Culley of the Houston Texans (66/1), according to Covers.
It isn't surprising to see Meyer closer to the lower half of the odds considering the Jaguars are fresh off a 1-15 season. The Jaguars have one winning season in the past decade, so they likely won't get much respect from oddsmakers until they actually prove they can win games on the field and not just on paper.
Plus, Meyer is facing a different transition than some of his rookie head coach counterparts. Staley, Smith, and Saleh were three of the best coordinators in the NFL in 2020, while this year will be Meyer's first year coaching in the NFL in any capacity. Meyer is one of the best college football coaches of all tie, but he is facing an even bigger adjustment than some of the other rookie head coaches.
“Winning. You’re in a league that is designed to be .500. You’re talking about Coach [Bill] Belichick, one of my great friends, a person I’ve always admired. He’s the best of all time and you’re talking about a .686 winning percentage," Meyer said at his introductory press conference in January.
"You’re talking about the league is built to be .500 and that’s—I’ve coached at Utah where we were picked to lose most of our games, I’ve coached at Bowling Green where we were picked to lose most of our games, and then Florida and Ohio State, you’re picked to win most of the games. So that’s the biggest challenge, is looking across the field and saying they’ve got what you’ve got, or sometimes they’ve got more than you’ve got.”
With this in mind, there are a few things working in Meyer's favor. For one, it isn't exactly rare for a rookie head coach to win the award. Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski won it last season, while other first-year winners include Matt Nagy (2018), Sean McVay (2017), Bruce Arians (2012), Jim Harbaugh (2011), Mike Smith (2008), and Sean Payton (2006). It has been done before, especially in recent years.
Meyer will also have the No. 1 overall pick at quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, along with a weakened AFC South. Lawrence is considered by many to be the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck and he clearly gives the Jaguars an upgrade at the sport's most important position.
"No, I mean, they—all of the staff, management and everyone here brought me here to win and that’s the main goal. So, I’m keeping the same mindset and obviously, there’s different challenges as you move on to the next level, things change a little bit, you’ve got to adapt," Lawrence said on May 15.
"But never—that mindset never changes, you’re always expecting to win and you prepare to win. So, I think that’s why they brought me here. They didn’t bring me here to expect to lose. I know we’ve got a lot of guys here that are ready to win and want to win. So, we’re on the right track for sure.”
For more on Covers' NFL odds and matchups, click here.