NFL Coach of the Year Odds: Can DeMeco Ryans Win as a First-Year Head Coach?

Annie Nader
Annie Nader@ANader33

With only five weeks left in the NFL regular season, the race for season-end awards is starting to narrow.

As the Coach of the Year race goes, some frontrunners have stood pat since Week 1 while others have made gradual efforts to improve their resume and rise to the top.

With that, let's take a look at the NFL Coach of the Year odds available on FanDuel Sportsbook as we enter Week 14.

Coach of the Year Odds

AP NFL 2023-24 Coach of the Year Odds
Dan CampbellDetroit Lions+200
DeMeco RyansHouston Texans+230
Shane SteichenIndianapolis Colts+550
Mike McDanielMiami Dolphins+600
Matt LafleurGreen Bay Packers+2000
Mike TomlinPittsburgh Steelers+2500
John HarbaughBaltimore Ravens+2500
View Full Table

Coach of the Year Criteria

Before we do a deep dive into the most legitimate candidates, let's explore the usual criteria employed by the AP NFL voting body.

Our Zack Bussiere gave a great breakdown of the typical Coach of the Year profile. It includes 10-plus wins and a significant improvement in record from the year prior. The fact that, over the past decade, the team of the winning coach improved by an average of 5.2 wins more than the season prior shows us just how much respect the voting body hands to resurgent teams.

Plus, special consideration is given to coaches who have yet to win the award.

Since 1990, there has been just one instance in which a coach took home this award despite their team winning less than 10 games. Double-digit wins couldn't be more important. Since 2000, the Coach of the Year's team has won, on average, 12 games.

Winning the division is another metric we can point to -- seven of the last 10 COTY winners also claimed their respective division's crown.

Coach of the Year Leading Candidates

Dan Campbell, Detroit Lions (+200)

Campbell has been the frontrunner for this award all season -- deservedly so. The Detroit Lions went 3-13 in Campbell's rookie head coaching season, 9-8 in his sophomore effort, and now enter Week 14 with a 9-3 record (tied for second-best in NFL).

Detroit upset the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1, and their momentum has remained fairly steady ever since.

The Lions have all but claimed the NFC North title, with -1150 odds to win the division. This would be Detroit's first division crown since 1993, so it's fair to say the underlying historical context could give Campbell a boost in this race.

Perhaps the place where Campbell's campaign falters most is in the category of improvement. After all, the Lions did win nine games last season, so it's already a sure thing that Campbell will fall below that 5.2 additional wins metric.

However, the Lions are in a solid position to win 12 games this season, which would be a major feather in Campbell's cap and one that some of his other competitors for this award will not be able to reach.

Games against the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, and a pair of matchups with the Minnesota Vikings round out Detroit's schedule. While an away game against the Cowboys, who are currently undefeated at home, sounds like something we can file away in the loss column for the Lions, a win there would bolster Campbell's campaign like none other -- it's a high-upside, low-downside scenario for him.

Either way, if the Lions can manage to win three of their final five games, it's hard not to cite the mere two-year turnaround it took for Detroit to go from 3-13 to a theoretical 12-4.

DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans (+250)

No coach has shot up the COTY race lately more than DeMeco Ryans has. Following Week 8, Ryans' odds to win stood at +1300, and now he's a major candidate to give Campbell a run for the award.

Last season, a matchup with the Houston Texans was akin to a bye week for opposing teams. Their 3-13-1 record was the second-worst in the league, and they failed to win a single game on their home turf.

But the early results of the 2023 draft couldn't have been kinder to the Texans -- to call C.J. Stroud a standout would be an understatement, with Will Anderson Jr. thriving, too -- and Houston's new coach has to be afforded some of the credit for how he has handled his young quarterback.

Given how essential a factor team improvement is to this award, it's easy to see why Ryans is one of the leading candidates. Per numberFire's projections, Houston is favored to win four of their remaining five games.

With the Texans boasting a 7-5 record going into Week 14, a 10-win season is very much in play for the Texans. A first-year head coach paired with a rookie quarterback leading their team to 10 wins -- particularly after a three-win season -- is about as good of a case as you can make for this award.

If the Texans close out the regular season -- which features some fairly easy competition -- with a trio of wins, it's not hard to picture Ryans collecting laurels come the season's end.

Shane Steichen, Indianapolis Colts (+550)

Steichen has faced more adversity this season than any other top candidate on this list. He came in as a first-year head coach and was handed a rookie quarterback and a team that went 4-12 last season.

His rookie quarterback, Anthony Richardson, then went down with a season-ending injury, but the Indianapolis Colts have still managed a 7-5 record.

The Colts are now trending toward a Wild Card spot and possibly even a division crown (+470 division odds going into Week 14). They are favored in four of their remaining five games, so not only is a 10-win season in play, but the Colts also seem determined to reach that 5.2 additional wins metric that recent COTY winners have achieved.

Beyond Campbell, this race could come down to Steichen versus Ryans. They have similar stories in that they have come in as a new head coach and brought losing teams to a winning record while managing rookie QBs -- though Stroud has done a lot more heavy lifting than Steichen's signal-callers have.

The Texans will visit the Colts in Week 18 for a divisional matchup that could have not only a significant bearing on the playoff race but could also be a determining factor in this season's Coach of the Year award.

Mike McDaniel, Miami Dolphins (+600)

There have been only three instances in the last 10 years in which a Coach of the Year's team reached the playoffs the year prior. This year, the Miami Dolphins (9-3) will surely coast to 10-plus wins and an AFC East title, and while this is an improvement on their 9-8 record last year, Mike McDaniel and company haven't stuck their necks out enough for me to be too high on him for this award.

After all, Miami did clinch a wild card spot in last season's playoffs, so the improvements haven't exactly been drastic.

The Dolphins are a bigger Super Bowl threat than any other team whose coach is a legit contender for this award, and McDaniel has shown particular proficiency at running this top-ranked offense. However, there's a gap in McDaniels's resume -- he's yet to win a big game.

Miami has won nine games this season, which is tied for the second-most in the league. But all nine wins came against teams that rank in the bottom 13 of numberFire's power rankings. On the flip side, the Dolphins' three losses were against teams that rank in the top 10.

As of Week 14, compared to the other top candidates, McDaniel neither has a comeback story nor an impressive enough resume to justify a COTY award.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.