November 15, 2012

Moving On

Mitchell Blair


One wouldn’t blame Saskatchewan Roughriders Head Coach Corey Chamblin if he wanted to dwell on Sunday’s loss to Calgary seeing it was a season-ender, but that wasn’t his style during the regular season and it’s not his style now that the season is over.

“A loss is a loss” Chamblin stated as he met the media for one last time in 2012 on Tuesday morning. “It’s time to move on. I’m not one to look back. Once things have ended, they’ve ended. It’s time to move on to 2013 and build off of that. We’ll continue to look at it, just to see how we can get better as a team.’’

As Chamblin moves on to the future, the general consensus is that the team is on the right path despite the fact they finished the season losing their last five games.

“If it was an eight where we stretched to get eight, I’d be more disappointed,” Chamblin insisted. “I think we’re on an eight-win season that easily could have been an 11-win season. So that’s the positive. Whether there were last-minute letdowns or there were 19 seconds left, a loss is a loss. You also have to say, ‘We were that close to a win.’ I think that’s where we’re headed.’’

The rookie head coach had his ups and downs during the 2012 season. The team started off winning three in a row before losing five straight. They rebounded from that by winning five of their next six but that 5th win in Toronto on Thanksgiving Monday would be the last time the team walked off the field as a winner.

Chamblin won’t argue the fact that the team was streaky, but he firmly believes the reason for that was a simple one and that the maturation process of his young team will mean different results when the team re-convenes in June for training camp.

“More experience.” Chamblin said. “That’s the biggest thing when you look at it. If you can lose on a streak, then you can come back and win on a streak. That’s the way I view it. It’s a little bit more consistency. We’ll get more out of guys taking the next step in their preparation, also. I had a group of guys, a big bunch of guys, in here who had never seen the CFL before and didn’t know what to expect. The second year around, they’ll know what to expect.’’

When Chamblin makes that statement, he refers to players like Kory Sheets and Tyron Brackenridge who made huge impacts in their first season playing Canadian football. He expects their growth along with the growth of other first-year players on the roster will turn this football team into a legitimate contender that can compete for the 2013 Grey Cup which will be played at Mosaic Stadium.

“The biggest thing is the second-year players.” Chamblin said. “You have more veterans. Guys didn’t fully understand what the CFL is. At one point, you had to teach them that the last three minutes is a whole other football game, and guys understand that. We’ll have some more rookies in there, but I’m pleased to see how some of the guys grew.”

As for his own growth, Chamblin will say that there wasn’t a steep curve there in being a head coach for the first time, but he will acknowledge that like his first year players coming back next year, he too will be a better head coach after going through the whirlwind that is the CFL season for the first time.

“I think there will be more football wisdom there and what to expect, whether it’s throwing the challenge flag or accepting or declining a penalty. Those are things that I’ve done before.” Chamblin said. “The one thing that I’ve always lived off of is to make sure that I don’t make the same mistake twice. I’ll go back through the whole season and see where we can improve as a team and I can improve as a head coach.’’

The foundation is set for 2013 with players like Durant, Dressler, Heenan, Shologan, Sheets and Brackenridge amongst others making up a solid core. Chamblin says the paint is still wet on the 2012 season so it’s too early to sit back and look at what is needed to make the team better in 2013. He does have this message though when he looks forward to what the 2013 edition of the Riders will bring and how the 2012 season can be described.

“The one phrase is, ‘Take the next step.’” Chamblin declared. “That’s the biggest thing. I think we took this organization from where they were to where we are now, whether it was 11 wins or eight wins or whatever, so we did take the next step. I’m looking forward to next year. We did move in a positive direction. We didn’t move back, we moved forward. That’s the one thing I said when I first got here: We need to move forward, and we won’t look at the past except for corrections that will enable the team to move forward. This year, we have a base. We’ve set a foundation. Now it won’t be change just to make change. It will be change to improve the roster and to improve different positions. We have a good core of guys here. We just need to add one or two pieces to get this puzzle finished.’’

When one sits back and takes a look at how 2012 went, it may not have ended in the most desirable fashion, but the building blocks have certainly been established to make the 2013 season last a couple of weeks longer and perhaps bring the team its 4th CFL championship on home turf.  Doing that might start a party that wouldn’t end until the 2014 season was underway.