REGINA — Two years ago, GM Brendan Taman went outside the box to find a new head coach for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
On Thursday, he rewarded Corey Chamblin with a contract extension through the 2017 season after leading the Riders to just the fourth Grey Cup title in franchise history.
“I went with my heart and some people may viewed it outside the box but I knew we had the right guy,” Taman told reporters at a news conference. “Corey brings is a lot of things to the table I was looking for when we were hiring a head coach for this organization.
“He’s knowledgeable, he’s very confident, he can deal with people which is very important as a head coach, he’s got a very very good ability to put a very good coaching staff together. The last two years we’ve been able to do that and we’re going to have another one this year and I think that’s a huge credit to Corey.”
Taman hired Chamblin, then Hamilton’s defensive co-ordinator, following the 2012 season after Saskatchewan posted a league-worst 5-13 record. The Riders finished third in the West Division with an 8-10 record in Chamblin’s first season, losing 36-30 to Calgary in the conference semifinal.
Last year, Saskatchewan won eight of its first nine games before suffering four straight losses. The Riders finished the regular season with an 11-7 record — second only to Calgary (league-best 14-4 mark).
After dispatching B.C. 29-25 in the West semifinal, the Riders upset Calgary 35-13 to advance to the Grey Cup game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Before a rabid Mosaic Stadium gathering of 44,710, the Riders capped their season by downing Hamilton 45-23 for their first CFL title ever on home soil.
“It was great for Brendan to think outside the box,” Chamblin said of Taman. “He talks about making that decision from the heart, well, I coach from the heart and I thought that was a good match for us.”
The country’s sports editors and broadcasters rewarded the Riders for their accomplishment by voting them The Canadian Press Team of the Year for 2013. And in February, Chamblin was also named the CFL’s coach of the year.
And now, Chamblin has a deal that gives him the long-term security often sought by a pro football head coach.
But Chamblin isn’t about to rest on his laurels.
“It’s not something for us to sit back and say, ‘Yeah, hey, this is what we’ve done,”’ he said. “I think the biggest thing it does is it gives us a chance to work together to continue something.
“We don’t want to be one and done. There’s a lot of things that I think we still have left on the table that we have not accomplished.”
Chamblin heads into his third season having amassed a 19-17 regular-season record. He’s also 3-1 in the playoffs, including the Grey Cup victory.
But he’ll have a much different team to coach in ’14.
Running back Kory Sheets — the Grey Cup MVP — and veteran slotback Weston Dressler both signed NFL deals with Oakland and Kansas City, respectively. Among the other players no longer with the Riders are defensive tackle Keith Shologan (Ottawa, CFL expansion draft), defensive back Craig Butler (Hamilton, free agent), running back Jock Sanders (Calgary, free agent), receiver Kierrie Johnson (Ottawa, free agent), linebacker Abraham Kromah (Hamilton, free agent) and punter Ricky Schmitt (B.C., free agent).
However, Taman said one of Chamblin’s biggest strengths is his ability to communicate with players.
“One of the main things we wanted was to have a head coach who was able to walk into this lockerroom and get the message across to the players,” he said. “Corey does a very good job of that, obviously.
“Whether the message is good or bad or indifferent, he gets it across. He also brings a definite passion to win, he’s driven to win on a daily basis. He wakes up every day with ideas and knowledge to try and improve this team.”