Chamblin on his time with Riders: ‘When you compromise, you lose.’

Cory Chamblin

Corey Chamblin harbours no resentment towards the Saskatchewan Roughriders for his dismissal as head coach but believes he deserved more time to reverse the struggling CFL club’s fortunes.

Saskatchewan fired Chamblin and GM Brendan Taman on Aug. 31 after starting the season 0-9. The move came less than two years after the Riders earned just their fourth Grey Cup title and first on home soil.

“There was no good way for it to happen but the toughest part is the way it happened,” Chamblin said via telephone from his off-season home near Phoenix. “I should’ve at least finished the season and had a greater chance to turn it around with different personnel.

“I think you have to look at the situation and what transpired and ask, ‘Did it infuse life?’ I left and I don’t think there was that much more progress since.”

Saskatchewan (2-15) is 2-6 under interim head coach Bob Dyce and concludes its season Sunday in Montreal.

“You go through (CFL), even here down south . . . it’s hard to win when you’re down to your third quarterback,” Chamblin said. “When you get down to that, there’s a lot of learning that must happen so there has to be a level of patience there.

“But for (coaches) there’s patience and then there’s impatience saying, ‘Well, hell, I better win now because it may be my head so let’s keep pushing ahead instead of going the patient route.”’

Chamblin was 29-34 over three-plus seasons in Saskatchewan and 3-2 in the playoffs. The Riders made the post-season three times, winning the ’13 Grey Cup.

After starting the 2014 campaign 1-2, Saskatchewan won seven straight and appeared poised to make a strong title defence. But after starter Darian Durant suffered a season-ending elbow injury, the Riders dropped seven of their final nine games, including the division semifinal to Edmonton.

Saskatchewan lost Durant to a season-ending Achilles injury in its 2015 opener before veteran backup Kevin Glenn (torn pectoral) was hurt in a 31-21 loss to Hamilton on July 26. That forced rookie Brett Smith under centre until Glenn returned Sept. 19 for a 30-27 defeat to Ottawa.

“You don’t go from five wins the year before to 8-10 and into the playoffs (in 2012), then 11-7, then 10-8,” Chamblin said. “OK, you’re 0-and-whatever but gone after one bad season? Excuse me, a half of a bad season?

“The one thing I tell people is when you’re in coaching, you have to expect your coaching death. My picture perfect (scenario) was to win a couple of Grey Cups and move from there . . . but no matter how you look at it there’s no perfect way to say good-bye when there’s a firing.”

But the move didn’t surprise Chamblin, the 2013 CFL coach of the year.

When Saskatchewan fell to 0-3, stories began surfacing of Riders fans wanting a coaching change. A defiant Chamblin responded, “There’s two podiums waiting at the end of the year _ a championship podium or a cross _ and I’m prepared for either one of them. At the end of the day, I’ll still work and I’ll still be a great coach whether it’s here in Saskatchewan this year or somewhere else next year or the next couple of years.”

Taman gave Chamblin a vote of confidence, but Chamblin said it was too late.

“I told Brendan, and you can ask him, I didn’t believe that because it was too loud for a team that won the (2013) Grey Cup and was 8-2 (in 2014) until we lost our starting quarterback,” Chamblin said. “I said, ‘I’ve been around this long enough to read the signs and I just don’t see it. I’ll be lucky to stay until Labour Day.’

“That kind of gave me a hint . . . it was too loud for what we had done.”

Chamblin, 38, looks positively upon his time in football-mad Regina. The Riders’ post was his first as a head coach and came just six years after he broke into the pro coaching ranks.

“There’s no way to get ready for big-time football unless you’ve worked in Saskatchewan in that environment,” he said. “It was such a great opportunity for a young coach.

“The biggest thing for me is out of 41 coaches there, only four of us won the Grey Cup and what made mine so special was it happened in Regina.”

Chamblin, who remains under contract with Saskatchewan through 2016, said some positive lessons he learned in Regina were how to be a head coach, win a championship in a frenzied market and deal with media while also getting a glimpse into the management side of pro football. As for the bad, Chamblin joked people will have to wait for his tell-all book.

“The biggest thing I learned was when you compromise, you lose,” he said. “There were some things I believed in and some things I compromised on and I think that caused some losses.

“People talk about working together but as the head guy there can’t be any compromise.”

– CP