Well, it’s done.
After starting the season 0-9 and losing 15 of their last 17 games dating back to September 7, 2014, Rider CEO Craig Reynolds pulled the plug on the fourth season of the Corey Chamblin and Brendan Taman show.
In the interim, Reynolds promoted Assistant General Manager Jeremy O’Day to General Manager and Special Teams Assistant Coach Bob Dyce to Head Coach. Reynolds has indicated that a full search for both positions will be held in the off-season.
The writing was on the wall after Sunday afternoon’s debacle in Ottawa when Chamblin decided to pull rookie QB Brett Smith, after he threw an ill-advised interception, for Tino Sunseri, who stood in at QB – literally, as he doesn’t move – for the rest of the game. After the QB change, it became quite apparent that the Riders didn’t have the same energy. After being down only 14-10 at the time Smith was pulled, the Riders went on to lose 35-13, giving up 10 sacks in the process.
But obviously Chamblin and Taman weren’t relieved of their duties due to just one poor showing by the Riders. However, the Ottawa game was the final straw in the long unravelling of a team that in just one and half seasons has managed to go from the top of the CFL to sole possession of its basement.
Let’s look at how we got here.
The 2013 Grey Cup Season
There are people who believe that the 2013 Grey Cup was won DESPITE Chamblin. One person’s story goes like this:
When the Riders started off 2013 at 5-0 they were completely dominating everyone. But Chamblin was all over them constantly in a rant about how terrible they were and at the bye week he basically had the best team in the league second guessing and doubting themselves. And look what happened after the bye week. They could barely beat teams with second string clipboard holders at QB. And then there was the little cafeteria incident. The season was done at that point until some of the veterans essentially took over the team and overcame the coaching.
Chamblin absolutely WOULD NOT listen to the players in 2013. He was terrified that anyone who dared to question the defensive schemes was trying to start a mutiny. Look no further than the Todd Howard debacle for proof of this.
Howard is an overbearing and aggressive personality like Chamblin, but he knows absolutely nothing about football. He walked all over Richie Hall and being the nice guy that he is, Hall let it happen. Any other DC would have told Howard to STFU and know his role.
Howard had the idea that he could run his own plays for the DLine. So Ritchie would call the play down and Howard was the one to signal it in for the defence. Problem was, he’d also put in his own play call for the DLine. Being the dumbass that he is, Howard would often screw up and have a totally different pass rush that should have been for what the coverage was.
Chamblin always bought the BS that Howard would start spewing to explain what went wrong on the breakdowns. That’s why TGeorge was sent to the press box and Ricky Foley got benched midway through 2013. This went on for all of 2013 and much of 2014. Chamblin took over the DC role after Week 2 of the 2014 season when they were annihilated in Toronto and DA had his little tantrum on the bench.
Chamblin was the same authoritarian coach for the first portion of 2014 that he was in 2013. It was AFTER Durant got hurt he started to actually listen to the defensive players.
Specifically, when Mike Sinclair showed up back in Regina last year and told Chamblin that Howard didn’t have a facking clue what he was doing. THAT’S when Chamblin finally started listening to the vets on the DLine and told Howard he could join Richie Hall sitting in the corner. The DLine and the LBs had absolutely ZERO respect for Todd Howard. None whatsoever. And yet he was Chamblin’s “go to guy” for the defence for much of 2014 – – while Richie Hall sat in the press box doing nothing.
It seems that after the 2013 Grey Cup, something in his demeanour changed. As Rod Pedersen quoted from a team staffer on his blog, “As soon as he lifted that Cup over his head, he changed. It became all about him.” And this behaviour carried into the 2014 season.
However, there were warning signs far earlier that Chamblin was a bit of a control freak (to put it mildly).
After the 2012 season, Chamblin decided to unilaterally change the terms of then Special Team Coordinator Craig Dickenson’s contract. Chamblin decided to move up the starting date for the following season, even though there was already a deal in place. Dickenson refused to play along and walked. He’s now employed by the Edmonton Eskimos.
Unfortunately this pattern of behaviour became worse after the 2013 Grey Cup win:
I’d also hear of Corey turning into an egomaniac, running around Riders HQ’s saying things like why can’t he be like Austin and Hufnagel, and have that power? Look, I understand that Chamblin was an egomaniac, a control freak, and a bully who ruled by fear and cowed his wimp of a GM…But I was still willing to win with that. Don Matthews was the same way. I just want to win. The cold hard truth though is that after awhile and all I was told, I concluded that Chamblin just wasn’t up to it. That he constantly overvalues and overestimates his capabilities, and that at heart he’s very short-sighted. In short, he fit the definition of a blowhard who couldn’t back it up and who grated on individuals after awhile. How he treated Craig Dickenson was a perfect example.
One of the many complaints against Chamblin was that he played favourites:
The Head Coach has had his favourites and this all goes back to the incident on Dewdney. When Dwight Anderson and Taj Smith were busted, they should have been benched immediately but they were among Corey’s favourites. Macho Harris is another one of Chamblin’s favourites and his unwillingness to discipline or have consequences for play on the field and actions off of it had players in the locker room shaking their head.
(Obviously rookie QB Brett Smith was not a favourite of Chamblin’s.)
Chamblin also reportedly did not handle adversity all that well. There were rumours earlier this season about Chamblin having an epic meltdown at halftime during the July 31st game in Edmonton. During his tirade, Chamblin apparently referred to the Rider players as ‘losers’ and ‘cowards’ and singled out rookie QB Brett Smith, saying “The only reason we’re losing is because of #16”. The Riders were still in the game at halftime, but collapsed in the 3rd quarter, which makes you wonder if there’s something to that rumour.
Apparently something similar happened the following week when the Riders were in Toronto:
One of Cory’s biggest issues is how he handles adversity. I know during the Toronto game last month when they were up at halftime he came in and said “you guys are playing like a bunch of f’ing fa**ots! You need to stop playing like p***ys and man the f**k up!” When the times were good, he was fine, but when adversity struck, he spazzed out and didn’t handle it well at all.
This type of locker room was obviously not all that conducive to team-building, as Chamblin apparently did not want anyone around who would openly challenge his authority:
Vets on the team knew what was coming the day Chamblin was hired. Guys that played for him in previous years said ” he was a facking prack”. He treated his boy toys like gold and anyone with an edge like shat. He inherited a team that was going to win, with or without him. Many players walked on him early last season, and it only got worse as the months went on. Anyone questioning him player or coach, were sent packing. RH was seen as an obstacle not a coach. The locker room dumped Corey’s *** last season, this season is what it is. The turning point was not when Smith was pulled it was last season, the final straw was actually when he told Jerome to “Fack off and go sit down”.
Chamblin’s biggest problem, though, was his inability to admit any fault. Time and time again this season he blamed the offence for failing to score enough points or for mistakes when at the same time his defence gave up points and yardage like they were free. As Darrell Davis wrote:
In his fourth season as Saskatchewan’s head coach, less than two years after winning a Grey Cup, Chamblin was overtaken by hubris and stubbornness. He added the role of defensive co-ordinator and refused to accept blame for losses caused by his inexplicable strategies and inability to design a defence capable of stopping anybody.
This must have been frustrating for the players who were constantly being thrown under the bus, as Chamblin never took any responsibility.
As for Taman, well, Reynolds said it best at the press conference: there were issues with Taman’s leadership, and his salary cap and roster management. The leadership issues apparently stemmed from Taman’s inability to get Chamblin under control. However, one of the most damning indictments of the Chamblin-Taman regime was its complete lack of understanding of the value of Canadian players and the importance of the ratio:
Somebody please ask people like Keith Shologan, Craig Butler, and Sam Hurl how they feel about it. Chamblin never did get how important Canadians are to how far you go towards the Grey Cup. Nor the ratio. It wasn’t understood or grasped to the extent it needed to be. And neither he nor Taman got what Canadian depth actually means once the injuries hit. Caught up to them all at once…
The truth is Chamblin and Taman neither understood to the extent that they needed to the value of non-imports. They played lip service to it and their actions did not line up with their empty words. Taman had a bad history in -Winnipeg of leaving the Canadian cupboard bare and we were headed that way too. It was eroding year by year.
And again, it’s Corey trying to run a team according to how the CFL SHOULD BE according to him versus the actual rules. It’s supply and demand with the premium should have been placed on Canadians, not Americans.
But despite all of this, the Riders appeared to have been committed to allowing Chamblin and Taman to see their jobs through to the end of the season. But after the Ottawa game, the fan base revolted, the media could no longer defend Chamblin, and even former Riders were questioning Chamblin’s decisions.
After the Ottawa game, Rob Vanstone wrote:
Corey Chamblin is devoid of victories and, more importantly, vision during the lost cause that is the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 2015 season.
With Chamblin as head coach, the Green and White is floundering at the present and unable to satisfactorily address the team’s future interests…
Inexplicably, and indefensibly, Chamblin pulled rookie quarterback Brett Smith after he was intercepted in the Redblacks’ end zone during the second quarter. At the time, Saskatchewan was trailing 14-10 and well on its way to a patented moral victory.
Chamblin inserted Tino Sunseri, who was ineffective, and now a winless season has become an irreparable, embarrassing circus.
Hold on. People actually enjoy watching the circus. As for the 2015 Riders …
Smith’s performance has been one of the few positive aspects of Saskatchewan’s season. And now, after Chamblin’s daft decision on Sunday, what is left?
Nine games that are strictly for show.
More evasion and obfuscation.
More losses, assuredly.
Is it true that there is a “W” in “Saskatchewan”? After Sunday, who knows?
Is there any kind of plan? Is there any hope?
On Chamblin’s relationship with the media, Jamie Nye wrote:
Chamblin speak: We can all say in the media you talk to, it was nearly pointless at times to talk to Corey Chamblin about anything with his team. He wasn’t forthright, he’d lie to our face about injuries (let’s rehash the Darian Durant thing if you’d like), and even a soft ball question about a young player he sometimes gave you a four word response with no insight. His excuses were lengthening by the day as to why his team was losing and when he spouted off about ‘The thing I can’t do is play’ when asked how much of this record is his fault, that was a few more nails. It was getting pointless to even talk to him on a daily basis and that is another indictment within an organization that prides itself on it’s public perception and branding.
On the post-game show after Sunday’s game, Mike McCullough said:
In other words, everyone agreed that it was time for Chamblin to go, and as Taman brought Chamblin in and was just as responsible for the decline of the talent on the roster, he, too, had to be shown the door.
Unlike Chamblin and Taman, though, it appears that Reynolds has a formula for success, specifically ‘sustained success.’ He wants to emulate the Calgary Stampeders, a team that has unquestionably been the most consistently successful franchise in the CFL over the last decade. With the Riders’ deep pockets, they should be a contender year after year, as they have the resources to build a vast scouting network. The new stadium is also a good bargaining chip in contract negotiations.
Contrary to the past couple of years that have seen the Riders twist in the wind, Reynolds took control of the franchise’s future today, and for the first time in a number of years, Rider fans have reason to believe that the team’s future is in good hands.