Rookie Head Coaches – Home Opener System

First Home Game for rookie NFL coaches

It was the first road games for rookie head coaches that got all the attention in this piece, but now it's time to put the shoe on the other foot and check in on how these same debuting coaches have done when they get their first chance to play a home game.

2021 NFL New Coaches

  • Atlanta Falcons - Arthur Smith
  • Detroit Lions - Dan Campbell
  • Houston Texans - David Culley
  • Jackonsville Jaguars - Urban Meyer
  • L.A. Chargers - Brandon Staley
  • N.Y. Jets - Robert Saleh
  • Philadelphia Eagles - Nick Sirianni

Rookie Head Coaches - 1st Game at Home (2016-2020)

Rookie Head Coaches on Road
Year Coach 1st Road Game Result (SU/ATS) Total (O/U)
2020 Matt Rhule (CAR) v. LV +3 (30-34) L/L Over (48)
2020 Kevin Stefanski (CLE) vs. CIN -6 (35-30) W/L Over (44.5)
2020 Joe Judge (NYG) vs. PIT +6 (16-26) L/L Under (44)
2019 Kliff Kingsbury (ARZ) vs. DET +3 (27-27) T/W Over (45.5)
2019 Zac Taylor (CIN) vs. SF -1 (17-41) L/L Over (46)
2019 Freddie Kitchens (CLE) vs. TEN -5.5 (13-43) L/L Over (44)
2019 Vic Fangio (DEN) vs. CHI +3 (14-16) L/W Under (41)
2019 Matt LaFleur (GB) vs. MIN -3 (21-16) W/W Under (43)
2019 Brian Flores (MIA) vs. BAL +7 (10-59) L/L Over (41)
2018 Steve Wilks (ARZ) vs. WSH -2 (6-24) L/L Under (43.5)
2018 Matt Nagy (CHI) vs. SEA -4.5 (24-17) W/W Under (42.5)
2018 Matt Patricia (DET) vs. NYJ -7 (17-48) L/L Over (48.5)
2018 Frank Reich (IND) vs. CIN +1 (23-34) L/L Over (47.5)
2018 Mike Vrabel (TEN) vs. HOU +3.5 (20-17) W/W Under (41)
2017 Sean McDermott (BUF) vs. NYJ -7 (21-12) W/W Under (42)
2017 Vance Joseph (DEN) vs. LAC -3 (24-21) W/P Over (41.5)
2017 Anthony Lynn (LAC) vs. MIA -3.5 (17-19) L/L Under (46)
2017 Sean McVay (LAR) vs. IND -3 (46-9) W/W Over (41.5)
2017 Kyle Shanahan (SF) vs. CAR +4.5 (3-23) L/L Under (45.5)
2016 Adam Gase (MIA) vs. CLE -10 (30-24) W/L Over (42)
2016 Ben McAdoo (NYG) vs. NO -3.5 (16-13) W/L Under (54)
2016 Doug Pederson (PHI) vs. CLE -4 (29-10) W/W Over (41.5)
2016 Dirk Koetter (TB) vs. LAR -3.5 (32-37) L/L Over (40.5)

Straight Up Results

From a betting perspective, the results in backing these rookie head coaches in their first game tend to bring better results overall, but with a 42-41 SU record (50.6%) for coaches in this spot since the 2002 realignment, bettors really have to be selective in picking their spots.

Now, those overall positive numbers have not held up for recent debuting coaches, as the 14 coaches to get their first head coaching gig since 2018 are on a 4-9-1 SU run overall. There were seven different coaches who were home favorites in that debut home game, and with a SU result of 3-4 SU in those games (all three that won SU won ATS as well), even teams that are expected to have a favorable matchup in their first home game under their new bench boss have been stumbling.

Stretch that idea out further to the 2002-2003 season, and of the 39 head coaches to be favored in their home debut, they've got a SU record of 24-15 SU, but just 17-20-2 ATS. That history leaves some interesting decisions to be made for bettors as to support these rookie HC's at home for the first time on the money line or against the number. Generally speaking though, money line plays may likely be the better choice than not.

That's because of the 21 rookie HC's that closed as -3.5 favorites or greater in their first home game dating back to realignment are 15-6 SU but just 10-11 ATS. Which also means that home favorites of -3 or less are 9-9 SU during that span, going 7-11 ATS.

Without knowing what spreads will pop up in Week 2 of the 2021 campaign for the home debuts of Urban Meyer (Jacksonville), Brandon Staley (LAC), Robert Saleh (N.Y. Jets), and Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia), we do have one rookie HC making his home debut in Week 1 and laying chalk; Arthur Smith and the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta's currently -3.5 at most shops, and after the piece on first road games did lay out some support for taking the +3.5 points with Philadelphia against Atlanta in that game, the fact that this spread sits at -3.5 and falls into that 15-6 SU but 10-11 ATS subset of historical plays.

Will we see that Week 1 game between two rookie coaches land as an Atlanta SU win but Philadelphia ATS cover? Time will only tell.

Against the Spread Results

The 42-41 SU record for rookie head coaches in their debut home game since 2002 also brings with it a 42-39-2 ATS record, as again it's best to be a bit more selective when incorporating these angles.

I say that because despite the slightly positive ATS results long term, if you go back to the start of just the 2016 NFL season, rookie head coaches in their first home game are just 8-14-1 ATS regardless of their status as underdog or favorite. Not good news for Atlanta Falcons backers in Week 1 yet again, but it also poses concerns for those looking to take the points with Detroit or Houston as well in Week 1.

Over/Under Results

The story generally stays the same here with totals for these first time coaches at home, as a 41-42 O/U record overall going back to 2002 hasn't really produced significant stretches of time where one side of this betting equation is hitting at a high success rate (ie a run of 'overs' or 'unders' of the course of a few years).

The O/U mark going back to the start of 2018 sits at 8-6 O/U overall, but where there might be a totals edge to be gained is if bettors can correctly predict which of these first time coaches are going to lose outright in their home debut.

Of those 14 games since the start of 2018, the SU record is 4-9-1as earlier noted, but in those 10 games that didn't result in a victory for the rookie HC, the 'over' has gone 7-3. Most of those have been some very ugly defeats as well, with Miami's Brian Flores' 59-10 loss in Week 1 vs. Baltimore back in 2019 being one that still holds a place in the memory bank. But Bengals coach Zac Taylor was also blown out in his first home game in 2019 (41-17 to SF), as was Cleveland's Freddie Kitchens that year (43-13 loss to Tennessee).

In terms of applicable situations for early in the 2021 season, bettors may want to look to an 'over' play in the San Francisco/Detroit game in Week 1 (Total of 46), as with the Lions pegged as +7.5 point home underdogs, and a -425 ML price range for San Francisco (implied win probability of 80.95%), there is a good chance the Lions start out the year 0-1 SU, and if history holds there, a 1-0 O/U record for Detroit may be the end result after Week 1 as well.

What week does that first home game come for these teams?

So while there hasn't been nearly as many potential playable edges for these first home games compared to the first road games, breaking it down by what week these spots come for these debuting coaches still has to be done as well. We've got three teams opening up the year at home (Atlanta, Detroit, Houston) in Week 1, with the other four rookie head coaches (Jacksonville, L.A. Chargers, N.Y. Jets, Philly) all not seeing action in front of their own fans until Week 2.

Dan Campbell makes his Lions' coaching debut as a touchdown underdog against the 49ers in Week 1. (AP)

First home game in Week 1

  • Dan Campbell (Detroit vs. San Francisco)
  • David Culley (Houston vs. Jacksonville)
  • Arthur Smith (Atlanta vs. Philadelphia)

Regardless of home or away status in Week 1, a new coach tends to be up against it in Week 1 as it's similar to anyone else in their first day with a new job. Nerves, excitement, and just not knowing or being fully confident in being the head honcho yet can all be issues for rookie head coaches in Week 1. You'd think being around the positive energy of a supportive fan base at home in the season's first week would help mitigate some of those potential issues, but historically that just hasn't been the case either.

Since 2002, rookie head coaches that get their first home game in Week 1 are 19-26 SU, 21-22-2 ATS, and 21-24 O/U. No rookie HC has won a Week 1 home game since 2017 – 0-8 SU and 1-7 ATS – after three teams (Buffalo, Denver, and L.A. Rams were all able to see win in their Week 1 home games as debuting coaches. Again that 0-8 SU run is not a good sign for Atlanta, Detroit or Houston Week 1 backers (SU or ATS) in 2021.

All things considered though, if these Week 1 home teams are on an 0-8 SU run, and the Detroit Lions are the biggest underdog of the bunch this year at +7.5 (meaning a likely SU loss for the Lions), that 'over' 46 play in the SF/Detroit Week 1 game is starting to look more and more attractive.

First home game in Week 2

  • Urban Meyer (Jacksonville vs. Denver)
  • Robert Saleh (N.Y. Jets vs. New England)
  • Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia vs. San Francisco)
  • Brandon Staley (L.A. Chargers vs. Dallas)

A bad opening week doesn't make a whole season though, and predictably, when these rookie HC's get the opportunity to not play at home until Week 2 (hence already having one NFL game as a HC under their belt), the SU and ATS results drastically improve for these teams. Overall since 2002, teams in this spot are 19-12 SU, 19-12 ATS, and 15-16 O/U.

Over the past decade (start of 2011 season), rookie HC's playing their first home game in Week 2 have gone 11-7 SU and ATS, with six of those outright wins coming as Week 2 home underdogs.

With the 2021 NFL Week 2 schedule showing the NY Jets at home vs New England, the Philadelphia Eagles at home vs San Francisco, the Jacksonville Jaguars at home vs Denver, and the L.A. Chargers at home vs Dallas, we will likely have a couple of those rookie HC's catching points in their first home game again this season.

Depending on the numbers that come out (and the usual Week 1 overreaction narratives), it may be a good thing for the overall health of your bankroll to consider taking a couple of these rookie HC's at home in Week 2.

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