How Did Shula Stack Up Against Other Coaches To Bet On?

  • Many debate who is the best NFL head coach of all time, but few examine records against the spread.
  • Bill Belichick won or pushed more than 58% of his games against the spread.
  • Don Shula’s career winning percentage straight up is 66.5%.

MIAMI, Fla. - The passing of Don Shula has reignited an old debate - the debate over who is the best NFL coach of all time.

Shula, of course, leads the NFL in total wins as a coach, with 328 wins over an illustrious career that spanned four decades.

Shula is undoubtedly one of the greatest coaches of all time, and this article will examine where he stands, from an NFL betting perspective.

Basically, this article is set up to take a look at who the best coach of all time is - for sports bettors.

Which of the greatest coaches of all time is the best for someone who just wanted to bet on them every week?

Best Coach Against The Spread

Coach Wins ATS Losses ATS Pushes ATS
Bill Belichick 248 183 12
Bill Parcells 166 146 10
Bill Walsh 97 67 2
Don Shula (Dolphins) 216 192 17

Against the spread, there are a lot of interesting things to consider as far as these coaches go. One of the biggest things that stick out is the volume of games coached by Belichick and Shula - a sports bettor could reasonably wake up every Sunday for decades, place a bet on Belichick or Shula, and be profitable in the long term.

All of these coaches were profitable ATS bets, which is a bit of an incredible statistic. The spread is supposed to account for how good the team in question is, and should, in theory, balance out the advantages that elite coaching provides.

However, when looking at these coaches, it becomes clear that this is not the case. Belichick is +65 against the spread, Parcells is +20, Walsh is +30, and Shula is +24.

The incredible thing about this is that all of these coaches were in charge of dominant, dynastic teams - the kind of teams that get gigantic spreads.

Despite this, despite being absolutely known quantities to all of the sportsbooks, the greatness of all of them seems to shine through.

Overall, Belichick stands out here. His record against the spread is incredible, winning or pushing 58% of his games against the spread, and he has done it over a remarkably long period of time, getting his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns in 1991, and, of course, coaching the New England Patriots starting in 2000.

By percentage, however, Belichick is edged out by Walsh, who won or pushed 59% of his games. The difference, however, is that Walsh did so over a much smaller sample size than Belichick.

Overall, this is a choice between a bunch of great options. Any bettor who placed a unit on each of these coaches against the spread every week would come out ahead in the long term.

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Best Coach On The Moneyline

Coach Wins Losses Ties
Bill Belichick 304 137 0
Bill Parcells 183 138 1
Bill Walsh 92 59 1
Don Shula (Dolphins) 275 148 2

Moneyline betting is a bit of a different animal because the way money lines are handicapped, it is a bit harder to determine the profitability of placing a unit on the moneyline each week.

That said, we can determine success rate - the rate at which a bettor would win their bets by placing a wager on each of these coaches on the moneyline.

Belichick starts this category off with a whopping 68.9% winning percentage for his career, meaning that if a gambler bet only on Bill Belichick's moneylines, they’d win almost 70% of their bets.

Parcells clocks in with a 56.8% winning percentage, which is a good number, but not in the same realm as Belichick’s.

Walsh approaches the rarefied air that Belichick breathes, with a 60.5% winning percentage over the course of his career, a genuinely stellar mark.

Shula comes the closest to Belichick, with a 64.7% winning percentage with the Miami Dolphins. For his entire career, Shula’s 347-173-6 record equals a 66.5 winning percentage.

Overall, in terms of winning percentage on moneylines, the clear leader here is Bill Belichick, followed by Don Shula, Bill Walsh, and Bill Parcells in that order.

Best NFL Coach For Bettors

So, who was the best coach of all time for sports bettors? Our analysis suggests that Bill Belichick holds that title, but Belichick is still coaching, and just lost Tom Brady, which could impact his overall percentages should he continue to coach with less success than he has currently enjoyed.

Historically, the best of these coaches against the spread was Bill Walsh, which means that a bettor betting on Walsh’s spreads would make more money than a bettor betting on Belichick’s spreads over the same period of time.

However, Bill Belichick has enjoyed a much longer career than Bill Walsh and sports bettors would have had a much longer period of success when betting on Belichick’s side of every spread.

Overall, the data seems to point in the direction of Bill Belichick, but his career has yet to come to a close - and it remains to be seen where it leads.