Friday, 7 August 2015

A coaching change won't help Riders

Corey Chamblin has had a rocky season as Roughriders head coach.
    For now, the Corey Chamblin deathwatch is on hold in Rider Nation.
    The voices calling for the head of the head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders will only stay somewhat muted until the next sign of trouble. If the Roughriders totally lay an egg in their clash against the Argonauts in Toronto on Saturday, the deathwatch will be on again.
    People will be asking, “Will Chamblin be fired today? How about tomorrow? The day after?”
You will also likely see the odd story appear in a mainstream media outlet saying Chamblin will be axed and another person is about to be brought in as head coach. That could possibly result in Roughriders general manager Brendan Taman holding another media conference to say Chamblin is safe like the one that was held earlier this week.
    Welcome to the daily life of players, coaches and management of the Roughriders, who constantly live in a fishbowl and forces outside the organization can turn things into a soap opera. When the team starts 0-6 for the time since 1979, the fishbowl becomes that much smaller. The 1979 club lots its first 12 in a row and finished with a 2-14 mark.
    Whenever the voices rally again calling for Chamblin to be dumped, it has to be noted that type of change likely won’t help the Roughriders, but it has a high probability of making things worse.
    In the modern era of professional football or even football at the university level be it Canada or the United States, a mid-season coaching change has less of a chance to provide a temporary spark or shake up compared to any other sport. When you dump a head coach, you basically dump the system that head coach brought in.
    The team will likely have a week, or even two weeks to try and learn a new system for the next game. In all reality, the mid-season replacement head coach would be smart to keep using the system his predecessor had in.
    The preparation a team puts in during a week has a huge classroom component, which most in the general public likely don’t have an appreciation for. For every hour a player spends on the practice field, it is likely he spends at least three hours studying video.
    The coaches go through more video than the players. At the professional and university levels, it is also common for the head coach to sleep four hours a night in his office at various times in the preparation week.
    During a meeting, it is possible to go through just one play for 15 minutes. The days when quarterbacks called their own game and squads only ran like 30 different offensive plays are long gone. Playbooks these days are thick.
    Due to all the preparation that needs to be done during a football work week, teams are basically saddled up with the current coaching staff for the duration of the season. If a coaching change is made, it is easier to do it in the off-season. Hench in the NFL, that is why every Monday after the regular season ends you usually see a large amount of coach firings.
    No other sport undergoes this type of preparation work. It is common to come across hockey coaches that say they don’t put in the hours their counterparts do in football.
    In the current CFL season, the biggest turning point for the Roughriders came in Week 3, when they led the B.C. Lions in Vancouver 29-18 with 2:21 to play and fell 35-32 in overtime. Holding a 29-26 edge, the Roughriders faced a third and one at their own 48. If the Roughriders gambled to get a first down, they would be able to end the game with kneel downs.
The Argonauts and Roughriders face each other on Saturday in Toronto.
    The visitors elected for the gamble and quarterback Brett Smith was stuffed on a sneak play. The Lions kicked a field goal to force overtime, and the rest is history.
    Immediately after that game on social media, Roughriders fans expressed their displeasure and took shots first at new defensive coordinator Greg Quick. The anger quickly moved to Chamblin, who in the off-season replaced Roughriders great Ritchie Hall as defensive coordinator with Quick.
    From that time, Chamblin’s work has been dissected in almost every way imaginable good and bad, especially when it comes to his influence on the defence. It seems no one remembers that Chamblin was the Roughriders head coach when they posted an 11-7 regular season record in 2013 and moved on to win the Grey Cup on home turf in a 45-23 romp over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
    Chamblin has earned the right to have a bad season and should be given the chance to turn things around. It also must be noted that might not be possible in Saskatchewan.
    When the Roughriders won the Grey Cup in 1989, then head coach John Gregory could have run for premier of the province after his team’s 43-40 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Toronto. Gregory was still very much loved two years later, when he was dumped as Roughriders head coach after the green and white started the 1991 season at 1-6. Saskatchewan finished with a 6-12 regular season mark to miss the playoffs.
    Chamblin was never as popular as Gregory was even during good times.
    On top of that, the Riders are starting Smith, who is in his full rookie season, at quarterback due to injuries to standouts Darian Durant and Kevin Glenn. Saskatchewan is also mired in a host of other injuries as well.
    At the moment, a new head coach would likely have a harder time cracking the win column than Chamblin does now.

Old guys whoop it up at Hilltops Alumni Game

David Stevens scores the winning touchdown for the "Has Beens."
    Looking upon the post-game scene at Saskatchewan Minor Football Field on Thursday night, you would have thought the “Has Beens” won the Super Bowl.
    The Canadian Junior Football League’s Saskatoon Hilltops’ annual alumni game came down to the wire, where the team’s current roster clashed with a squad made up of former Hilltops players. The alumni team was also stocked with a few players who graduated from various post-secondary clubs, where the majority of that representation came from the Canadian Interuniversity Sport ranks.
    On the final play of the game, tailback David Stevens ran a major in from a yard out to give the alumni squad a 16-14 victory over the current Hilltops. Following the score, the alumni team, which went by the moniker the “Has Beens,” stormed off their bench to mob Stevens in celebration and whoop up the victory in the end zone.
    The old players showed they still have game and gave the Hilltops, who returned most of their CJFL title winning team from a season ago, a stiff test.
    Stevens, who was a star carrying the rock out of the backfield for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, was still as fast and elusive as ever. Watching Stevens play, you wouldn’t believe his final season with the Huskies came back in 2006. If he still had eligibility to play, he might still be one of the top three running backs in the CIS.
    Receiver Kit Hillis, who just wrapped up his CIS career with the Huskies as their all-time leader in receptions last season, also made a number of huge plays. On the series before the alumni team secured the win, Hillis, who is also a former Hilltops pass catcher, dropped a potential winning TD reception on a third down gamble.
    On the game-winning drive, he hauled in an intermediate route and turned it into a gain of about 50 yards to set up the alumni team in the red zone.
    The current Hilltops, who went by the moniker the “Will Be’s,” played inspired, as they ensured their whole roster saw action. Unfortunately, they racked up too many penalties.
The "Has Beens" celebrate victory at the Hilltops Alumni Game.
    Most of the flags came from illegal procedure, off-side, illegal substitution, too many men and illegal formation calls, which was surprising to see from a veteran club. They had a number of instances where players weren’t aware if they should be on the field or not.
    On one play, an official chuckled he didn’t have to throw a too many men flag, because the Hilltops offence ran a play with 11 players.
    Head coach Tom Sargeant and his staff accumulated a lot of video that can be used to illustrate what mistakes need to be fixed.
    The Hilltops do have time to iron out the errors. They open the regular season on Aug. 16, when they travel to Calgary to take on the Colts.

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