Mr. Untouchable

Corey Chamblin

Every team has a Mr. Untouchable, the key building block for the future. Corey Chamblin is untouchable with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Roughriders’ head coach has a signed contract carrying him through 2017 with the CFL team. His team could go winless through the upcoming season and Chamblin would still retain his job.

Not that the Roughriders can’t afford to fire him — they are the league’s richest team, after all — it’s just that there will be no desire or urgency to do so, no matter how poorly the Riders perform.

How did he earn such job security?

During his second year as Saskatchewan’s head coach, Chamblin guided the Roughriders to a hometown Grey Cup victory. Played before a sold-out crowd at Mosaic Stadium, which poured into Regina’s streets to celebrate following the 2013 championship game, the Roughriders’ 45-23 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats has been dubbed the finest moment in the history of the 105-year-old franchise.

That goodwill carries Chamblin a long way because he made 2013’s magic happen along with home-grown general manager Brendan Taman, who started his CFL career as a ballboy with the Roughriders. Taman is also signed through 2017. Taman actually has some detractors among the team’s faithful, while Chamblin has remarkably few.

Chamblin and Taman inherited a decent team in 2012, with the remnants of a squad that had lost consecutive Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010. They ultimately added expensive, proven veterans like guard Brendon LaBatte, centre Dominic Picard, defensive back Dwight Anderson, slotback Geroy Simon, linebacker Weldon Brown and defensive ends Ricky Foley and John Chick.

Experienced, Grey Cup-winning co-ordinators George Cortez and Richie Hall handled the offence and defence, respectively, as Chamblin began establishing his persona as a head coach à la his hero/mentor/friend, Mike Tomlin of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Heading into the 2015 CFL season, Chamblin has solidly established his methods and entrenched them in the 37 coaches he has helping him. That’s the running gag on our radio show, The Green Zone — Chamblin has so many assistants and advisers and helpers that there’s roughly one coach for every player. There are actually 14, no 12, no 13 coaches on the Roughriders staff since Chamblin rooted out the non-compliers. It’s now completely his show. Heading into his fourth season with the Roughriders, he knows what he wants on offence and defence, so he jettisoned Cortez and Hall. Cortez’s offence focused on a running attack interspersed with deep passes. Hall engineered a defence that was supposed to bend, not break, and ultimately earned the disdainful description as “conservative.’’

Chamblin, with his extensive defensive background, will be overseeing a new, more-aggressive defence in the early stages of the season until first-time co-ordinator Greg Quick can take over. Maybe. And the offence is now controlled by long-time CFL co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine, whose offences are identified by lots of short passes, with occasional running plays when the tailbacks aren’t being used as receivers. Indeed, the entire coaching staff has undergone extensive renovations along with major on-field personnel changes.

Such drastic changes can bide a coach plenty of time. “We’re just re-establishing ourselves here,’’ could be the team’s mantra, or Chamblin’s mantra. With Cup-winning quarterback Darian Durant returning from an elbow injury, the Roughriders won’t be an 0-18 team this season. They’re middle-of-the-pack, probably on the top end of the scale, as they settle in for long-term programming under Chamblin. And the head coach will certainly be leading his Roughriders into 2016, and perhaps into their new stadium in 2017, regardless of what happens in 2015.

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Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.