January 9, 2019

O’Leary: Chamblin eager to try and pass next big test

Graham Hughes/CFL.ca

He can’t put a specific number to it, but Corey Chamblin says he’s watched it at least a hundred times. It never gets old, the still-new head coach of the Toronto Argonauts says.

For Chamblin, no movie explains his life like Life.

For those who have never seen it: Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence are two broke strangers from New York in the early 1930s. They end up getting caught bootlegging liquor in Mississippi and have a murder pinned on them. They spend 60-plus years in a work camp, plotting failed escape after failed escape.

If you think that sounds grim and that there’s a horribly sad undertone to this, you’re not wrong. But Chamblin, who initially revealed that this was his favourite movie with James Cybulski on The Waggle, will defend Life forever.


“Because they end up getting out,” Chamblin said on Tuesday in Mont Tremblant, Que., where the CFL’s presidents and GM meetings are taking place.

“The whole thing is, every time they thought they were about to get out there’d be some obstacle that they’d have to overcome. There was a period of time in my coaching career and my playing career that I’ve been like, ‘Man. This is my life’.

“Every time there’s been an obstacle I’ve had to get over I’ve made it through. I’ve seen that and I’ve lived that. Everything about me, when I talk to the players, coaches, it’s about overcoming those adverse moments. When I look at that (movie), that’s what it was.”

The Waggle: 1-on-1 with Corey Chamblin

EPISODE OVERVIEW: On this Waggle Extra, James talks with new Argos head coach Corey Chamblin about his return to Toronto, his history in Saskatchewan and how he plans to turn things around for the Argonauts.

Chamblin’s next-favourite movie is The Shawshank Redemption, for the same reasons.

“Same thing,” he said. “You’re in a situation and you probably shouldn’t be in that situation, so there’s a lot of lessons. Even though (the movie) was a drama, it’s something you can learn from and take from and I really like it. When they finally get out it was like, ‘Wow’. The other thing was persistence. Even though they had setbacks they never stopped.”

As a player, Chamblin finished his career at Tennessee Tech and played 11 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1999 season. He spent the next four years with five different teams before getting into coaching in 2006. His climb through the CFL coaching ranks took him through Winnipeg and Calgary as a defensive backs coach, before he took his first defensive coordinator role with Hamilton in 2011.

He saw the highs and lows that come with a head coaching job. Through three and a half seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he led the team to just its fourth-ever Grey Cup championship — a picture-perfect win at Mosaic Stadium in 2013 — and saw the wheels fall off of his team. He was fired when the team fell to 0-9; the Riders finished with a 3-15 record that year.

Chamblin took a year away from the game before returning to the CFL as the Argos’ defensive coordinator in 2017. The Argos’ defence was revitalized and the team stunned Calgary in the Grey Cup, giving Chamblin his third ring as a coach. After a year in Arkansas as a defensive backs quality control coach for the Razorbacks, Chamblin was hired to replace his former head coach, Marc Trestman, where the Argos are once again in need of a jolt.

Even if you’re steadily employed like Chamblin has for the majority of his career, coaching is a profession that offers only fleeting glimpses of certainty or stability. You can go from an up and comer to overrated, from being labelled a genius to a moron week-to-week.

» Popp, Argos taking wait-and-see approach with Ray
» Through the Lens: Media day at Mont-Tremblant
» Free Agent Tracker: Keeping an eye on Feb. 12

Argos general manager Jim Popp has a busy off-season ahead of him (Graham Hughes/CFL.ca)

“You talk about that undertone (to Life), that’s been my career,” Chamblin said.

“That’s been my football career, even my career as a coach. We’re going to bounce back. The only difference is I’ve learned how to bounce back a little quicker now.”

There’s a lot that Toronto needs to bounce back from. The Argos should have their coaching staff finalized shortly and they need to figure out what they want their 2019 roster to look like. That includes talking with Ricky Ray about his future and if the two are still a fit. Then they need to examine what went wrong with last year’s four-win team and figure out what has to happen to re-establish themselves in the East Division.

Chamblin looks at the ups and downs in his own career and what his new team has endured of late. You learn from everything, the good and the bad, he says and he’s ready for what’s in front of him.

“Now I’m back and it’s like, ‘Here it is, here are these learning lessons’. How am I going to apply them and win championships?”