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NFL Coach of the Year 2020: Analyzing odds for strong pool of candidates

The field for NFL Coach of the Year 2020 is stacked. Who's most deserving of the coveted award? We'll take a look at each candidate and their latest odds.

NFL Coach of the Year 2020: Analyzing odds for deep pool of deserving candidates
October 11, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It’s typically rather obvious who will win major pro football awards this late in the season, but the 2020 campaign has been far from normal due to COVID-19, and more candidates than usual have legitimate cases to be NFL Coach of the Year.

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is the odds-on favorite to take home the hardware. According to SportsBetting.com, B-Flo as he’s affectionately known is listed at 5/4, just ahead of Buffalo Bills boss Sean McDermott.

Continue reading for the remaining odds, along with a breakdown as to why each candidate is a worthy contender.

NFL Coach of the Year 2020 odds before Week 17

  • Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins 5/4 odds
  • Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills 3/2 odds
  • Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers 8/1 odds
  • Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team 10/1 odds
  • Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns 10/1 odds

NFL Coach of the Year 2020: Breaking down each candidate

Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins (5/4 odds)

Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores watches from the sideline as they take on the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

After going 0-7 to begin his tenure in 2019, Flores rallied Miami to a 5-5 record despite fielding a depleted roster that was in an obvious rebuild. Even this year was thought to be a bridge into something greater in 2021 and beyond.

But Flores had other ideas. Thanks to some savvy free-agent moves and a solid draft class, the Dolphins are well ahead of schedule, with a 10-5 record heading into Week 17 and the chance to win and make the playoffs.

Beyond transforming the defense from yesteryear’s laughingstock to one of the NFL’s elite, there’s almost no precedent for how deftly Flores has handled Miami’s quarterback situation. Rookie Tua Tagovailoa has been benched multiple times during games in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, including in Week 16 with postseason hopes on the line. It wound up resulting in victory against Las Vegas.

Between those calculated risks at the most important position on the field, the reshaped defense and an overall changed culture, there’s no denying Flores is a viable contender for this award.

Flores’ Coach of the Year candidacy may boil down to whether or not the Dolphins ultimately earn an AFC Wild Card berth.

Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills (3/2 odds)

Dec 19, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott on sidelines against the Denver Broncos during the first quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes part of the job involves hiring a strong staff, which McDermott has succeeded at in spades with the Bills. His offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is a legitimate head coaching candidate for 2021, and that’s a positive reflection on McDermott’s tutelage and eye for talent.

When Buffalo’s defense struggled at times early in the year, much of the credit for the Bills’ success went to Daboll and how well he developed third-year quarterback Josh Allen from scattershot gunslinger to legitimate superstar. However, McDermott’s defensive acumen has shined through, and Buffalo is peaking when it matters most late in the season.

McDermott managed to wrest the AFC East crown away from the mighty New England Patriots and arguably the GOAT of all coaches, Bill Belichick.

Yes, New England lost Tom Brady in the offseason and had multiple players opt out in 2020. No matter — McDermott’s achievement is a mighty one considering the Pats had lost the division only twice since 2001.

The only thing really hurting McDermott here for Coach of the Year is the fact that Flores is doing more with less in Miami, and the Dolphins are also in the AFC East.

If you like McDermott or Flores, it might be worth betting on either of them before their teams square off for the regular-season finale. That head-to-head duel may well determine who wins Coach of the Year, and the Week 17 victor will emerge as the prohibitive favorite.

Related: NFL world reacts to Buffalo Bills winning AFC East

Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers (8/1 odds)

Dec 13, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur gestures during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Is there a more underappreciated coach in the NFL than Matt LaFleur?

Think about all that he’s dealt with during his tenure in Green Bay since taking over for the 2019 campaign. Instant credibility questions surrounded him since he was viewed as a poor man’s version of Sean McVay. Then, of course, LaFleur maybe didn’t have enough authority as a young hire to mesh well with superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

All LaFleur did was go 13-3 in his first year, guiding the Packers to the NFC Championship Game. How did the front office reward him? Slamming him with a quarterback controversy by trading up to draft Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Instead of letting that potentially infect the team, LaFleur has helped Rodgers unlock a new level to his game, making the signal-caller the leader in the NFL MVP race. Oh, and if Green Bay wins in Week 17, that’ll make the Packers the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed and cap a second straight 13-3 record for the coach.

Little of this will be discussed due to some of the more compelling narratives around other coaches. Nevertheless, LaFleur absolutely deserves to be mentioned among the NFL’s best, and in another year, may have been honored as the league’s top coach.

Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team (10/1 odds)

Oct 11, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera looks on from the sidelines against the Los Angeles Rams in the third quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Give it up for Ron Rivera. Seriously. Continuing to coach through chemotherapy treatments with the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic constantly a factor? Talk about a heroic effort.

Rivera has capitalized on all the talent Washington has on the defensive side of the ball as well, transforming the Football Team into a physical, pass-rushing force that handed the 11-0 Pittsburgh Steelers their first loss of 2020 and leads the NFC East entering the final week of the regular season.

All this despite an inept offense that just released quarterback Dwayne Haskins, a 2019 first-round pick who completely flopped. Alex Smith’s amazing comeback helped Washington turn its season around once he got thrust into starting duty, yet he’s been out lately with a nagging calf injury.

Say what you will about the Football Team having a losing record. What Rivera has overcome in trying to turn around a historically troubled organization is exceptional, and purely for the human achievement he’s accomplished, he’s a legitimate threat to win Coach of the Year.

Among the longer-shot candidates, Rivera at 10/1 is probably the best bet.

Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns (10/1 odds)

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski argues a penalty on the offense that takes back a touchdown in the second half. The Giants lose to the Browns, 20-6, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, December 20, 2020, in East Rutherford. Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The above photo is fitting for the Browns‘ latest leader. As if to say, “What do I have to do to win Coach of the Year?”

As has been outlined in the previous subsections, it’s pretty obvious Stefanski is on the outside looking in. That doesn’t take away from what he’s accomplished, though.

Think about where Cleveland was entering the 2020 offseason. Freddie Kitchens was fired after one season as coach and a horrid 6-10 record. The Browns didn’t have an identity on either side of the ball. Baker Mayfield looked like a bust at quarterback. Everything was in complete chaos.

Enter the even-keeled Stefanski. He calmly persevered through adverse circumstances that were unimaginable before taking on the job as a first-time NFL head coach. Stefanski installed a system that catered to Mayfield’s strengths, forged a run-first identity through the Browns’ mauling rushing attack, and made a great hire with Joe Woods at defensive coordinator.

Any chance Stefanski has to win the award hinges on Cleveland’s ability to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17. Multiple players missed last Sunday’s upset loss to the New York Jets, and the Browns will be without several starters versus Pittsburgh. At least the Steelers are cutting Cleveland a break by resting several players prior to the postseason.

Stefanski should be celebrated more for the job he’s done. Alas, he’ll inevitably get overlooked, and he ultimately isn’t as worthy of a 10/1 wager as Rivera, whose Football Team could still win the NFC East by beating the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday.

Related: Baker Mayfield future forecast: QB’s outlook brightening amid Cleveland Browns renaissance