December 6, 2019

Looking at the Argos’ current coaching situation

The Canadian Press

TORONTO — In the midst of the off-season, we’ve started to see teams hiring new coaches for the 2020 season.

One team that is also in search of coaching is the Toronto Argonauts. On Friday, TSN’s Farhan Lalji was told by sources that Argos offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine was not expected to return to the team.

For the double blue, they have Corey Chamblin as their head coach heading into next season, so they just need to fill out the other spots on the staff.

On the latest episode of The Waggle presented by Sport Clips, Davis Sanchez and Donnovan Bennett were joined by TSN’s Dave Naylor, who talked about the coaching situation in Toronto,

Episode 189: All aboard the coaching carousel w/ Dave Naylor

EPISODE OVERVIEW: The off-season begins! CFL on TSN insider Dave Naylor joins Donnovan to discuss the first domino in the off-season coaching moves, as well as look ahead to some pending free agency questions.

EPISODE RUNDOWN: Rick Campbell’s move to BC (1:50); What is next for Jason Maas? (3:30); Ottawa’s HC vacancy (5:30); Edmonton HC vacancy (10:15); Is Chamblin safe in Argoland? (11:50); The QB free-agent class of 2020 (20:00); The QB scenario in Winnipeg (27:15); 2019 takeaways (33:40); 2020 look-ahead, global player impact (37:00).

“I think there’s an economic component to it. We’re seeing these coaches getting fired and you’ve got to advertise what’s been committed to them over the next five years,” Naylor said. “I believe Corey’s deal was a three-year deal with the third year being a club option. But the second year was guaranteed so if you’re going to fire him, it’s going to cost you some money.

“I think there’s a good relationship between Bill Manning, Pinball Clemons and Corey; I think they’re going to make some significant changes to the staff.”

After winning the 105th Grey Cup in 2017, the Argonauts were riding high into the 2018 campaign. Unfortunately for them, a 4-14 campaign saw then-head coach Mark Trestmann be relieved of his duties. Chamblin was brought in to be the next man to be at the helm of the team.

It went the exact same. The Argos started the year 0-6 before they won their first game of the campaign. However, they’d win just four games once again, with three of them coming against the Ottawa REDBLACKS — who finished the year 3-15.

Changes were made down the stretch. General manager Jim Popp was relieved of his duties. In his stead came Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons, who traded quarterback Zach Collaros to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for draft capital.

The REDBLACKS, BC Lions and Edmonton Eskimos all moved on from their respective head coaches.

As for the decision to keep Chamblin after a second consecutive 4-14 season could come as a head-scratcher to some, it could also be a case where the Argonauts didn’t think there was another man suitable for the job.

“For instance, if Mike O’Shea was going to part ways with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, I think the Toronto Argonauts would’ve made a move there and said ‘There’s a solid guy, proven track record as a head coach, a former Argo, he’s a guy who spent a lot of his life in Southern Ontario, and we think we can repatriate him as our leader going forward.’ I think that could’ve happened,” Naylor said.

“All indications are O’Shea is going back to Winnipeg and the Argos are saying ‘Is there anyone we think we have to have who is the right man for this team?’ And I don’t think they thought there was,” he said. “They had people they were interested but nobody was that shining light that they said ‘that’s the guy we want.'”

Now, the status of the Argos’ staff is still up in the air. Chamblin is still the head coach of the team, but after another rough year for the Boatmen, 2020 could be a final chance to right the ship.

“Anytime you bring back a coach who’s on a short rope — and I think we have to assume that after a four-win season, Corey Chamblin is going to begin next season on a short rope — you better know who your next coach is going to be if things go off the rails,” Naylor said. “I’m not somebody who really believes in firing coaches mid-season. I think in football, most of the time, it doesn’t work. It’s not like hockey where you bring in a new voice behind the bench and all of a sudden, you win four in a row.

“With football, the schemes and the personnel, it’s almost impossible to bring in someone from outside the organization, and then promoting from within becomes your option.”

So, if there is, in fact, a change at some point during the 2020 campaign, who would be the man that would be able to run the team?

“I will not be surprised if the Argos do get off to a bad start next year, if their next head coach is their general manager,” Naylor said. “Pinball Clemons has done it before, he’s replaced coaches mid-season before and I think that’s his natural affinity. I would not be shocked at all.

“I think the Argos are going to give Corey another shot, and if it doesn’t work out — I wouldn’t say expect, but just put me in the category of least surprised person if Pinball Clemons replaces Corey Chamblin.”

Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons addresses the media for the first time after being named general manager of the Toronto Argonauts. (

Clemons was first named as an interim head coach with the Argonauts back in 2000. After spending another season as the head coach of the team, he was promoted to team president ahead of the 2002 campaign, relinquishing his coaching spot in the process. However, he’d return to the sidelines on an interim basis at the tail end of the 2002 season. He’d remain the team’s head coach until 2007.

Naylor talked about Clemons’ pedigree as a coach in the league and also talked about him being out of the football operations area of football for over a decade and how that could make it harder on him as a general manager. He does believe, however, that the move to coach would be a more natural one for Pinball.

“I don’t want to anticipate that Corey Chamblin isn’t going to be successful next season and won’t finish the season, but I would be surprised if Mike was someone who was never around the team as general manager,” Naylor said of Clemons’ inclusion within the organization. “If you’re going to make a return to the CFL after 10 years, is it easier to make it as a coach or a GM? I think it’s easier as a coach.”

Barring a major change, Toronto will be sticking with Chamblin as their head coach for next season, and with Clemons and the Argos’ front office sure to help bolster the team in the offseason, he should be given another chance to succeed in 2020.