On Dec. 15, Rider GM Brendan Taman announced that Corey Chamblin (pictured) would be the new head coach. At 34, Chamblin is one of the youngest head coaches in CFL history. A defensive back in college (Tennessee Tech), Chamblin saw spot duty in the NFL with several teams, and played one season in NFL Europe in 2004 before he turned to coaching. In the CFL, he’s had stops in Winnipeg and Calgary as a DB coach, and spent last season as Hamilton’s defensive coordinator. He was reportedly Taman’s preferred choice to replace Ken Miller last season, but the Rider brass opted for Greg Marshall instead. Now, with Taman enjoying full autonomy as GM, he’s the Riders’ field boss. And our intrepid Rider commentators Earl Camembert, Ron Mexico and Cal Corduroy are here to offer their thoughts. 

Are you pleased with the choice Taman made?

EC: I’m OK with the choice. The trend in pro football now is to hire coaches who are in their 30s and 40s because they seem to be able to relate to today’s players better. Mike Tomlin of the Steelers is 39, and was hired when he was 35. Raheem Morris of the Buccaneers is 35. And so on. Back in the 1950s, Frank Clair was 33 when he was hired as head coach of the Argos.

RM: I’m fine with it. The guy’s name’s been mentioned a few times as an up and comer. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is described as a friend and mentor. That’s an elite coach who got the Steelers’ job at the same age as Chamblin’s current age, and he’s a good contact for the Riders to have. We were too old in our overall mentality last year. The age of our coach (both Miller and Marshall) was almost becoming part of our brand. Criticizing his hiring because Hamilton’s defence was weak last year is about as convincing as crediting him for coaching former Calgary DB Brandon Browner to his current NFL success in Seattle. Thank God they didn’t land Kent Austin. Has the guy ever stayed anywhere for more than two years?

CC: I’m reasonably positive regarding the hiring. Chamblin’s been a top candidate for each of the vacant coaching positions in the league. My personal preference would have been Scott Milanovich for his offensive background, but once Toronto hired him as head coach Chamblin was at least as qualified as any others. Consensus seems to be that Craig Dickinson was a more mature coach than his brother Dave, so it sounds like the only real offensive coach in the mix was the least ready to coach. Kent Austin was a “please the fans” suggestion, although there wasn’t a chance he was coming back, particularly for only a coaching position.

While the Rider D didn’t exactly sparkle last season, the team’s biggest problems were on offense. Are you worried about Chamblin being too defensive orientated, or do you think the hiring of a quality offensive coordinator would address those concerns? If so, who would your leading candidate be?

EC: It’s not a concern. Head coaches are always either offensively or defensively oriented, but rarely have they coached on both sides of the ball. The Riders just need to get a young imaginative offensive co-ordinator and a QB coach and they should be OK. Not sure who is out there as an offensive co-ordinator.

RM: No, I’m not worried that he has a defensive background. First of all, our defence wasn’t dominant and needed improvement. Second, I agree with him when he says that it’s the offensive coordinator who runs the offence anyway. I don’t really know who is out there. There’s a natural tendency for people to latch onto recognizable names (ie. Dave Dickenson’s main credential for most people is that he was a good QB). Regardless, Chamblin needs to revive the scrappy attitude and pick his own assistants — although it would be nice if he retained Craig Dickenson.

CC: Clearly the Riders need an offensive coordinator AND a QB coach. Securing both should suffice. There are not a lot of candidates that immediately pop to mind. You’re looking at people who have been doing the job in one place, and would be prepared to do it in Saskatchewan (Dave Dickenson, Jacques Chapdelain, Khari Jones), or else you find an up-and-comer who you’re prepared to take a chance on like Rick Worman or Jason Maas. If I had to wager, I would guess that Khari Jones would be a strong candidate. He’s coached with Chamblin before.

There’s been a fair bit of activity in the CFL this off-season. One move that raised eyebrows was the Eskimos trade of QB Ricky Ray to Toronto for QB Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw and the Argos #1 pick (second overall) in the 2012 CFL draft. What’s your take on the trade?

EC: For some reason Eric Tillman is in love with Steven Jyles. Edmonton certainly clears a lot of salary cap space by dealing Ray, and maybe they’re looking at having to sign some important players in the next while. Plus, Tillman doesn’t seem to want to hold onto starting QBs in their mid 30s. See: Kerry Joseph. And I have heard reference to the fact that their Canadian talent is hurting.

RM: I can’t figure out that trade other than that Tillman has been high on Jyles for a long time. It probably frees up a bunch of salary cap room in Edmonton too. In addition, Tillman is usually good at recognizing the importance of Canadians. Thus the high draft pick coming Edmonton’s way. 

CC: There’s been rumours that Hamilton had been trying to get Ray for two years, but he needed to take a salary cut, and he would only do it if Tillman guaranteed he wouldn’t be traded. But Tillman is obviously an astute football man, and seems to have a soft spot for Steven Jyles. He is also quite confident in their backups and feels they can grow into the position. I never underestimate Tillman’s prowess, and he did dump a pile of salary that gives him some room for some other moves that he likely has up his sleeve. In the end, I was somewhat surprised by the move. I thought that Henry Burris would end up in Toronto, as it seems increasingly unlikely that he will return to Calgary (he’s due a bonus on Feb 1). Maybe Winnipeg or Hamilton are potential landing spots for Burris? Driving a forklift in Winnipeg would be fine by me.