March 13, 2017

Steinberg’s MMQB: No reward without a first step


Saskatchewan’s signing of Vince Young last week was the buzz of the professional football world and for good reason. The Riders have brought in one of the biggest names in the sport over the last decade as Young tries to re-launch his career.

I’ll be honest; I don’t think it’s going to work out. But because there’s next to no risk here, why not take a shot if you’re Saskatchewan?

Risk assessment

Jamie Nye wrote a great piece last week that sums things up pretty nicely. Young’s signing is a Hail Mary of sorts, but one with very little risk accompanying it. As I said, I’m really not anticipating this to work out and usually I’d ask, “why even bother?” But in this case, with a player like Young, I’m kind of interested to see if I’m wrong.

So why am I so skeptical of a signing months before the first ball in training camp has ever been snapped? Well, in this case, I’m mixing in a steady dose of history with Young’s unique circumstances and the situation he’s walking into. Truth be told, I think he’s got a lot to conquer to make this CFL foray a successful one.

» Nye: Young signing a ‘Hail Mary’
» Riders officially ink Vince Young
» Young focused on the task at hand


Vince Young holds up his new number during his introductory press conference on March 9 (The Canadian Press)

There’s the obvious stuff, of course. Young hasn’t thrown a football in a professional game since 2011 when he was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. In fact, he hasn’t even been on a professional roster since his two-week stint with the Cleveland Browns in 2014. When you add in the fact he’s 33, soon to be 34, well, things don’t necessarily scream ideal.

Then you have to factor in the learning curve. Playing in this league is a whole lot different and that’s why history keeps tripping me up. The CFL game isn’t just an extra defensive back, a larger field and fatter footballs. The nuances of this league can be difficult to pick up, especially for a quarterback. The floundering attempts of Akili Smith, Mike McMahon and even the slightly more successful Cleo Lemon are hard to forget, after all.

Finally, it’s not like Young is coming to the Canada to play in a market where he can fly under the radar. Regina, Saskatchewan is home to this league’s most rabid, passionate, dedicated fans and is also home to a different level of scrutiny from anywhere else. Now, of course, it’s not like Young is new to pressure after having played in Austin, Nashville, and Philadelphia. But I won’t lie, I always wonder about a comeback attempt in a fishbowl.

And yet, after saying all that, I don’t blame the Riders for pulling the trigger on this. What’s the worst that can happen? Chris Jones and company can bring him to camp, evaluate Young’s game, realize it’s not going to work and move on. Heck, the aforementioned Smith stayed on Calgary’s roster for more than half of the 2007 season without any harm being done.

But what happens if my fellow skeptics and I are wrong? It doesn’t take long to remember just how dominant Young could be as that one-of-a-kind talent coming out of the University of Texas and we’ll never forget his Rose Bowl performance to finish his college career.


It’s not like Young struggled at the NFL level, either. His first two seasons were chock-full of highlight reel moments and impressive performances. It wasn’t really until his knee injury in 2008 when things started to go sideways for Young, in fact. For a few years, though, he was the toast of the town and for good reason.

If, after three years away from the game, Young can come back and recapture even some of the explosive, game-breaking form we’ve seen in the past, then Saskatchewan will be thrilled. And, if that were to happen, I’ll be the first one to tell you I was wrong and I’ll be happy to do it.

In the end, even if skepticism is proven valid come this season, what will the Riders have lost? They’ve taken a shot, they know Young is no sure thing, and they’re going to see what happens. Hail Marys aren’t successful very often, but when they come with as little risk as this one, I’d have no problem calling that play.

Nice find

Last week I preached patience and cautious optimism on Toronto’s hires of Jim Popp and Marc Trestman. After all, they’ve both entered the fray for the Argonauts so late in the off-season, it’s going to be tough to start affecting meaningful change until next season. While I still think that’s true, the duo found a pretty nice ace in the hole this past week.

One of the main issues I worried about for Trestman specifically was his inability to hire his coaching staff from a full offering of available talent. Because his hiring came so late in the game, many potential assistants were already under contract elsewhere on either side of the border. Luckily, or fatefully, one pretty bright mind wasn’t, though.

Corey Chamblin’s tenure in Saskatchewan was a rollercoaster ride to say the least. At the peak of that ride was that dominant 2013 title he won while coaching the Riders while things hit rock bottom prior to his firing during the 2015 season. For Trestman and the Argos, though, getting a former CFL Coach of the Year as defensive coordinator at this stage in the game is a pretty nice coup.

» Chamblin, Brady to lead Trestman’s staff
» Chamblin: New role ‘better than being a head coach’
» Same title, new chapter for Marcus Brady

Corey Chamblin (left) and Marcus Brady (right) mark a starting point on Marc Trestman’s coaching staff (

I like the fit, especially from a personality standpoint. While the 61-year-old Trestman can be stoic at times, Chamblin likely brings a little more fire to the sidelines. After all, the 39-year-old Chamblin is only 13 years removed from playing at a professional level. I think Chamblin, who was also named assistant head coach, and Trestman will be a really nice working duo.

As far as the X’s and O’s go, well, Chamblin has some work to do. The Argos allowed the league’s most points per game last season and were absolutely shredded on the ground. Toronto averaged a league-worst 115.2 rushing yards against per game in 2016, so there’s an obvious area of improvement right away.

Chamblin has always been a bright defensive mind, though. Other than his stint as Saskatchewan’s head coach, Chamblin has either been a DB’s coach or a defensive coordinator his entire career. Chamblin’s teams have historically been good against the pass and, on a positive note, the Argos were good in that category last year, too.

Look, the way things ended for Chamblin in Regina was not good and it’s safe to say he’s learned from it. But now he’s coming to a team coached by one of the league’s most successful coaches in recent memory. That means Chamblin can focus on doing what he does best: running defences. For taking over in March, that’s a pretty good find for Trestman.

Taking offence

Marshall Ferguson’s first attempt at a 2017 Mock Draft last week made for really good reading and I agreed with one thing more than anything else: the Bombers need to target their offensive line with the number one overall selection.

Ferg has Winnipeg going with Mason Woods out of Idaho, which could very well happen, as could Manitoba’s Geoff Gray or Dariusz Bladek out of Bethune-Cookman. The point is, for me anyway, the Bombers could be very well served by taking a high-end offensive lineman with the pick they got from Toronto in the Drew Willy trade.

» NEED TO READ: Marshall Ferguson’s Mock 1.0

University of Idaho

Mason Woods is projected to go first overall by’s Marshall Ferguson (University of Idaho)

General Manager Kyle Walters has done a really nice job of building up Winnipeg’s stock of Canadian talent in recent years. Where that depth is still lacking a little bit is up front, even with last year’s second round selection of Simon Fraser’s Michael Couture. Using their number one pick at O-line in a few months would go a long, long way in solidifying that area for years to come.

The Bombers have gotten much better when it comes to national offensive line talent. Matthias Goossen and Sukh Chung were both starters in 2016 with Couture waiting in the wings. But when I look at some of the most successful teams in recent memory, I look at Canadian depth on the offensive line as one of the biggest reasons why.

Over the last decade or so, teams like Montreal, Calgary, and Saskatchewan have made a ton of hay by starting four or more nationals on their offensive line. I’m not saying Winnipeg needs to do that this season, but as they continue their resurgence, taking an offensive lineman first overall just seems like a natural fit.