Toronto Argonauts: Corey Chamblin’s complicated tenure ends

Head coach Corey Chamblin yells out to his team against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the 101st Grey Cup Championship Game at Mosaic Stadium on November 24, 2013 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Head coach Corey Chamblin yells out to his team against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the 101st Grey Cup Championship Game at Mosaic Stadium on November 24, 2013 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Argonauts have parted ways with their 2019 head coach Corey Chamblin, who won a Grey Cup with the team in 2017.

Former Toronto Argonauts head coach Corey Chamblin saw his brief tenure come to an end Thursday, after a 4-14 record in his one and only season in charge.

Taking over for Marc Trestman after the Argos disappointing 2018 campaign, Chamblin struggled out of the gate, losing his first six games at the helm.

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Those games, when combined with his 0-9 record with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2015, meant that Chamblin lost a staggering 15 games in a row as a head coach – a surprisingly harsh statistic considering the success he found early on in his career.

Chamblin’s CFL legacy is a complicated one. He has been a part of three different Grey cup championships, in three different cities – including Toronto. That type of success often earns you a little good will, which was something Chamblin seemed to lack from the organization and its fans.

Early in the year, the cracks began to show, water seeping into a sinking ship. Chamblin fought hard to plug each and every one as best he could. In the end, he failed, and the team needed to move on.

Was one year a fair timetable? Probably not. But more concerning than the record, or the lack of on-field grit that Chamblin prided himself on, was the lack of unity with his players.

Chamblin faced the media after each and every game, as his Argos found a new and more painful way to lose each week. He would often say that players pride would win out, that the game was lost because of one aspect of the game…that the other parts of the team’s game were satisfactory.

He wasn’t wrong, but the elephant in the room was always clear – if this team consistently fails to execute in all three phases of the game, isn’t that on you, the head coach?

In a way, his post-game monologues would prove one of the more unflattering critiques that fans had of him true – he thought like a coordinator, when the team needed a head coach.

He would compartmentalize, and focus on one aspect of the game.

If special teams returns cost Toronto the victory in Winnipeg, then Chamblin would aim to be perfect the next week.

To his credit, his week-long focus on whatever ailed the team the week before would usually improve, but often at the detriment of the other side of the ball. The Argos bumbled along week-to-week, and despite league leading offensive numbers in August, they had only one win by labour day.

His players never truly mutinied, but their frustration was evident. One needs to look no further than James Wilder Jr.’s off-season tweets to see that there is no love lost between the two. Wilder seemed to be mulling over his options after his release from Toronto, but now is asking the Argos to talk after the news broke of Chamblin’s departure.

Make no mistake about it, that’s not a coincidence. Players on the offensive side of the ball never truly meshed with Chamblin’s philosophy, especially when the quarterback position became a game of musical chairs towards the end of the season. Chamblin claimed that the quarter-to-quarter rotation was giving the team a chance to see what they have next year, but with a new G.M. and much of the roster entering free agency, how much of that was true? Chamblin is a smart man, he had to know the pressure he was under. That final stretch could just as easily have been interpreted as waving the white flag – a final admission that he wasn’t sure himself of the direction this team should go on offence.

Which isn’t all that surprising, considering he’s been a defensive coach for most of his career.

Corey Chamblin’s legacy with the Toronto Argonauts may not have ended the way he wanted, or deserved, but don’t let the win-loss record and the struggles fool you. The man is a smart football mind who was always able to articulate exactly what the opposing team’s defence was doing right, or where his defence was struggling. He can scheme with the best of them, and he truly gave off a confidence that even at 0-4 indicated he thought this team could compete.

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Unfortunately, head coaches need to offer a little more than confidence and post-game analysis. And when management looked back on this year, it was clear that Chamblin failed to do that.