March 11, 2017

Chamblin: New role ‘better than being a head coach’

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO — Corey Chamblin is at home in Arizona and he’s got plenty on his mind, the least of which might be what to wear. Except that on this chilly day, he needs the right colour top to keep him warm.

“I thought ‘I need a hoodie,'” the Toronto Argonauts’ new defensive coordinator and assistant head coach says over the phone. “And I looked at a Saskatchewan hoodie and thought ‘can’t do it, won’t do it, ain’t putting it on’. Can’t do it, baby, it’s double blue now.”

Memo to the Argos: Chamblin needs some swag, pronto, as he immerses himself in the business of building a defence for Head Coach Marc Trestman and General Manager Jim Popp, the new team brain trust that brought aboard the former Saskatchewan head coach.

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THE CANADIAN PRESS

Corey Chamblin was named the Argos’ defensive coordinator on Tuesday (The Canadian Press)

Chamblin has often professed that he is all about the right fit, the best opportunity and not just taking a job for the sake of taking a job.
He may not have the right fit in his hoodie just yet but he’s satisfied that he has it career-wise, in Toronto. These are busy, busy times for the 2013 Grey Cup Champion and he is taking on his new position with enthusiasm.

“I’m excited because I get to do what I’m called to do, at a high level, and with some good people,” Chamblin says of his return to a CFL sideline. “And good coaches. And good players. That’s what makes it feel good.”

When we last spoke with Corey Chamblin, the new year had just dawned and he was keeping himself busy with a start-up website as well as working hard on staying connected in the football world. He was, he said, in no rush to pull on a headset just anywhere. There were all kinds of considerations at play, including already having a good home for his wife, Samantha, and sons Karter and Keaton.

Chamblin didn’t think a job in the CFL was in the cards for 2017 but that changed in the middle of January when the Argos let their general manager, Jim Barker, go. Chamblin had been in touch with Scott Milanovich, the Argos’ head coach, to see what was up in Toronto.

“He was like ‘man, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if I’ll be here.’ It was two days later that they ended up firing Jim. A couple of days after that, Scott ended up in Jacksonville.”

“Really, over the last week or so, we’ve gotten to know each other a lot better on the personal side.”

Corey Chamblin on his relationship with Marc Trestman

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Chamblin returns to a CFL sideline for the first time since 2015 with the Riders (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Chamblin says he contacted the Argos at that time to ask about their plans for a head coach but was told they were holding off on that until they got their general manager in place. The Popp/Trestman alliance, so successful over five years in Montreal, became the Argos’ number one choice with Chamblin being offered the DC’s position. Instead of being disappointed, Chamblin insists things have worked out exactly right for him.

“Being under Marc Trestman and Jim Popp, but especially Marc as a coach, that’s better than being a head coach in the CFL at this point for me,” he says.

Still, it would be understandable to wonder if the CFL’s Coach of the Year (2013) has thoughts about what the future might hold and whether he sees this return engagement north of the border as a stepping stone towards running a show once again. Chamblin shoots that talk down.

Whatever happens down the road is whatever happens down the road. He’ll be open to it. Right now, however, he’s focused on building a great defence in Toronto and soaking in more football knowledge.

“I’m super, super super excited about my present opportunity and I don’t give a damn what comes next in terms of head coaching,” he says. “I’m excited about this opportunity. I get to learn from (Trestman), I get to learn from Jim Popp, who’s had great success in this league as a general manager.”

“I like to look at things in terms of education,” Chamblin continues. “So, I got an early education on being a head coach (he was 34 when he began his first season as the Roughriders’ field boss). Here I am, more mature. Ready to learn. And I can learn from someone like Coach Trestman.”

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Argos’ new brain trust gives the team a new direction heading into 2017 (The Canadian Press)

The two have been in touch a lot since Chamblin’s appointment was announced earlier this week. There is a lot to do because there is always a lot to do when it comes to running a pro football team but it’s more than that. The Argos didn’t have Popp and Trestman in place until the end of February, and it’s widely held that they are behind the rest of the league when it comes to off-season building. Chamblin, though, isn’t worried, partly because football is football (see below) and partly because he and his new boss are doing their level best to make up for any lost time.

“We’re burnin’ the phone up right now with text messages and calls,”  Chamblin says. “Really, over the last week or so, we’ve gotten to know each other a lot better on the personal side.”

There’s not been much between them on the X’s and O’s front, so far.

“It’s more the philosophy on how we’re gonna treat the players and what we ask the players to do,” says Chamblin.

Perhaps Chamblin ought to have squeezed in an order for some Argos merchandise during one of those sessions. It’s not just the coach who wants and needs it.

“My son came out today and said ‘dad, we need some Toronto blue socks.’  So I’ve gotta get him some Toronto blue socks.”

Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

Chamblin most famously coached the Riders to their iconic 2013 Grey Cup Championship (Arthur Ward/CFL.ca)

The green will now be relegated to a closet or basement storage bin for now, even though Chamblin sings the praises of the quality of the cold weather garb his time with the Roughriders had provided.

“We’ve made the conversion,” he says.”We’re double blue and we’re ready to get this ship sailing.”

Looks like the conversion is taking. The Argos’ new defensive coordinator just seamlessly threw in a nautical term as the conversation wrapped up.

CHAMBLIN’S DEFENCE WILL SUIT THE TALENT

Often times, a defensive coordinator will look to recruit the kind of players they need to fit their schemes and philosophies. With the season really just around the corner, Chamblin knows he might just have to adjust his wants and needs to suit the players that already form the core of the 2017 Argonauts’ defence.

“The philosophy for us is to assess the players that we have, and to make sure that we play winning defence,” he says, noting that things have changed a little bit in since he was last a CFL coach.

“When I left the league, we were a great man-to-man (coverage) team. A man, press team. Try to beat you up. Can’t do that as much with the rule changes. But we want to be aggressive. That’s the mindset we wanna put in our players.”

CFL.ca

Corey Chamblin (left) and Marcus Brady (right) lead a new-look Argos coaching staff (CFL.ca)

Chamblin maintains that most all CFL teams are employing the same basic principles on defence. The only real difference is in how much a type of scheme would be used in any given situation. “Everyone’s runnin’ the same things,” he says, and then proceeds with an explanation. He describes the usual four D-linemen formation, with either zone (cover one, cover three or cover four sets) or zero (man to man) coverage. And then a variety of pressure packages to augment them.

“We’re gonna do all those things across the board,” he says, “but we’ve gotta find out which ones we do the best. Early in the year we’ll get a feel for what we do and we’ll get stronger as the year goes on.”

When asked if Trestman has any expectations of the type of defence his new DC should employ, Chamblin says: “He expects me to win. He expects me to bring in a tough, tenacious defence.”

“To play on this defence, you’re gonna have to be mentally, emotionally and physically tough.”