Monday, July 27, 2015
THE MONDAY MORNING GOALIE
REGINA -- Never before in my life have I hoped a head coach is wrong more than I do right now.
Prior to Sunday’s home game against Hamilton, Roughriders coach Corey Chamblin told his team in his pregame speech, “This will determine what type of team you’re gonna be for the rest of the season!”
TSN cameras caught the address and the commentators noted how fiery Chamblin was in his talk.
The club then proceeded to blow a 21-17 lead in the fourth quarter and lose 31-21 for its fifth consecutive defeat to open the 2015 CFL season.
Of course to make matters worse, quarterback Kevin Glenn got injured making a tackle on an interception he threw at the end of the third quarter and was unable to finish the game. His status is now in question for this Friday’s game at the division-leading Edmonton Eskimos. Glenn will see team doctors today to gauge how the injury responded overnight.
Ironically, the sun did not come up Monday morning. The crackling of thunder and persistent showers seem to reflect the mood of the Rider Nation.
Initially, the inkling is that this season is a write-off and we haven’t even hit August yet.
Upon my return home after the game, my wife asked, “So are we eliminated from the playoffs?”
And the answer to that question provided the one slim glimmer of hope the team has left.
No, they are not eliminated from the playoffs. There are still 13 games to go. In my first season calling games in 1999, when the club finished 3-15, the Riders were miraculously in the playoff picture right down to the final weekend.
But something needs to change with this team immediately. There’s one bullet left in the gun and should they falter at Commonwealth Stadium this upcoming weekend, it would be tough to convince even the most-optimistic of fans – or even the players - that this season can be saved.
Defense cost Saskatchewan the Hamilton game. Just like all of their games so far this year. Chamblin, the club’s defacto defensive coordinator, tweaked their approach and applied considerably more pressure against the Ticats on Sunday than we’ve seen all season. But the result was the same.
“Just like you say, we brought the heat,” Chamblin said after the game. “We got after (Ticats QB Zach Collaros) and did everything we could. That's football and we couldn't keep them out of the endzone. The thing we can't do is quit, no matter what. This is one of the toughest situations they'll ever be in but we have to fight another day.”
Amidst all of Chamblin’s postgame quotes, that was the kernel which stuck out to me. “We couldn’t keep them out of the endzone.”
So the time has come for Chamblin to relinquish the duty of calling defensive plays and hand it over to Greg Quick, the man whose business card actually says “Defensive Coordinator”. Chamblin's a great football coach but the task of managing the game while running the defense at the same time seems to be too huge at this juncture.
The facts are staring the Roughriders right in the face. What they’ve been doing simply isn’t working. There have been promises all season long but they’ve come up empty each and every week.
It’s come to this. You have to ask yourself what's best for the team? To me, this might be it.
Receiver Weston Dressler has emerged as the leader of this football club in the absence of injured quarterback Darian Durant and even he has run out of answers.
“It's getting harder and harder to talk to you guys,” Dressler told us on CKRM’s postgame radio show. “Coach told us to remember this day. We're at the bottom and have nowhere to go but up.”
That part is likely true. And it was so sad to see most of the 31,683 fans in attendance on Sunday head to the exits with 1:41 remaining. There was so much hope in their faces all game long, but it is quickly evaporating.
“You never want to see people leaving early when there's still time on the clock. It's tough,” Dressler continued. “If we had the answers we'd be winning games instead of losing them.”
That was the toughest part to digest. The Riders don’t have the answers and if they don’t, who does?
It’s time to try something different, before it’s too late. The clock has started ticking on Corey Chamblin’s mostly successful time in Saskatchewan and no doubt there will be plenty of calls for his dismissal between now and Friday. But that, assuredly, won’t happen.
“I think, no matter what, through social media the players are gonna read (speculation on his future) and they shouldn't be worried about my future,” Chamblin said calmly. “They should be worried about theirs. My mindset is the guys in that room. As long as I'm here, that'll be my focus; to get wins for the guys in that locker room.”
For the last couple of weeks Chamblin has sounded like a dead man walking and it’s clear the team is down to its last out.
But they’re not giving up. They can’t. Not yet.
“It's gonna be a heckuva ride when we pull out of this thing,” Dressler concluded.
It has to start Friday night.
Here's the postgame analysis of Rider Radio's Carm Carteri following Sunday's game:
"The Kevin Glenn interception was a big turnover for the Riders. That really got Hamilton back into the football game. Having said that the Riders had a 4-point lead going into the fourth quarter and they allowed it to slip. It was just a little bit of everything: penalties and not making plays. Again, it was Kevin Glenn not at the helm for the Riders. Young Brett Smith had to come in and really couldn't get anything going as that Hamilton defense turned it up a notch.
"They sent the blitz at the young quarterback and stayed zone behind in the secondary. Really the Riders had nowhere to go and it's unfortunate because this was a game tied at the half 14-14. The Riders looked like they were going to make something happen and win this football game but it was just too little too late.
"It was the fourth quarter that killed this football game again. Over 30 points given up by this defense. You just can't do that in this league. Unfortunately for the Riders it's back to the drawing board again on a short week. They've gotta lick their wounds and go 'Alright now where do we go from here?'
"That's a big coaching decision for this staff because they don't have the formula right now and they'd better find it quick.
"It was a back and forth game and you felt like the Riders were in control. And then Kevin Glenn doesn't come back with what we suspect is a shoulder injury. Now you're down to, really, your third string quarterback. But the game was lost before Brett Smith even got in there, really. He was deep in his zone and the Ticats just squeezed the head of the Riders and choked them off when they needed to.
"Even Hamilton took some bad penalties. The one by Banks nullified a touchdown and they had to settle for a field goal which gave the Riders a chance. But boy, just more questions than answers again."
Tune into 620 CKRM's Rider Monday in the SportsCage today at 4:00 pm. I'll be joined by co-host Mike Abou-Mechrek and Rider GM Brendan Taman will make his weekly appearance. Sportsnet's Arash Madani will be on the show as well.