So the Turkey Day didn’t get put back in storage after Thanksgiving. The Detroit Lions kept it sharp all weekend and used it to axe head coach Steve Mariucci Monday. This was not unexpected. The Lions record is 4-7, making Mariucci’s final record 15-28. It had been rumored for weeks and the team was playing lifeless, uninspired football. He also didn’t appear to be a happy camper of late, though don’t feel too bad for him: His base salaries for the next two years are $5.5 million in 2006 and $6 million in 2007.
So how does this relate to sports wagering? Teams can get fired up and play hard for the new coach when something like this happens. Just a year ago the Miami Dolphins fired Dave Wannstedt after a 1-8 start. In Game No. 10, the Dolphins were a 9-point dog at Seattle, yet hung in there and got the cover in a 24-17 defeat. The game spoiled the debut of interim coach Jim Bates, but Miami held Seattle RB Shaun Alexander to 3.3 ypc, his lowest yards per carry up to that point and second lowest of the season.
In fact, the Dolphins went 3-4 SU/5-2 ATS the rest of the season under Bates after going 1-8 SU, 2-7 ATS under Wannstedt. What can sometimes happen is that the firing of a coach can eliviate an unhappy situation. The clubhouse mood can shift overnight, making practice and game day more enjoyable. The effort is noticeable.
In 1989, the Cincinnati Reds had fired underachieving manager Pete Rose after a string of second place finishes. They brought in Lou Piniella for the 1990 season and the Reds only went on to win the World Series! Obviously, that wouldn’t have happened under Rose. Two years earlier the Red Sox were 9-games out at the All Star break with a talented but underachieving team. They fired John McNamara, and proceeded to go 19-1 under new manager Joe Morgan on the way to winning the AL East. Last year the Astros fired Jimy Williams in mid-season, then got hot under Phil Garner and made it to the NLCS. And the Marlins won the World Series in 2003 after Jack McKeon replaced Jim Fregosi.
That Miami Dolphins team a year ago played hard for Jim Bates, winning at San Francisco the next week, losing 20-17 at Denver as a +11 dog, and beating the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots, 29-28, on Monday night. It will be interesting to see how the Lions respond – if they respond. Or if any other coaches are let go, as there are several NFL coaches still on the hot seat.
Has any pro football team fired a coach in mid-season with a winning record? Yes. Only one. The 1984 Patriots fired Ron Meyer with a 5-4 record, and they played .500 ball under Ray Berry, missing the playoffs. Though they did win and cover their first game under Berry. We’ll see how relieved, or hopeless, this Lions team really is.