The Saskatchewan Roughriders' 30-5 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos Friday marked the team's first 0-6 start to a season since 1979, and now, it appears it has them set to take drastic action. Gary Lawless of The Winnipeg Free Press and TSN 1290 Radio reported on TSN Saturday that according to a source he described as "a senior Riders' executive," Saskatchewan general manager Brendan Taman is set to propose firing head coach Corey Chamblin to team president Craig Reynolds. Here's exactly how Lawless phrased it:
"Saskatchewan Roughriders' GM Brendan Taman is set to recommend the firing of head coach Corey Chamblin. A senior Riders' executive says Taman will meet with team president Craig Reynolds as early as Sunday to discuss the future direction of the team. Taman, says the source, would like to take advantage of an upcoming bye week to put an interim head coach in place for the remainder of the season. The Argos play in Toronto next weekend [Saturday, Aug. 8] then have a bye. If given the go-ahead, Taman would fire Chamblin after the Argos' game and then use the bye week to install a new coach. It's unknown if Reynolds will allow Taman to put a plan in place to move forward or insist on the status quo. If Taman is told not to fire Chamblin, the senior Riders' executive believes the Riders' board would then wait and enact a major housecleaning at the end of the season, which would include the firing of Taman. The most obvious candidates for an interim head coaching position are former B.C. Lions' head coach Mike Benevides and former Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice."
It's notable that this is a substantial change from what Lawless reported earlier this season. Two weeks ago after the Riders fell to 0-4 with a home loss to B.C., Lawless reported that Taman had no intention of firing Chamblin, and that if asked to do so by Reynolds or the board, he'd refuse. That doesn't mean the earlier report was necessarily inaccurate; it's quite possible Taman's opinion has changed, as the last two weeks have seen two particularly devastating losses for the team (with Friday's 30-5 thumping by Edmonton looking especially bad) and a significant long-term injury to quarterback Kevin Glenn. However, it is interesting that he would go from refusing to fire Chamblin at any cost to being the one who asks for the authority to fire him. If both reports are accurate, that could be a last-ditch attempt on Taman's part to keep his own job.
The way this information has come out is at the very least questionable, though. Lawless has a strong track record when it comes to CFL reporting, and he was named the Football Reporters of Canada's reporter of the year a few seasons back, so there's good reason to believe he's accurately relaying what he's been told, but that doesn't mean the information itself is accurate. You have to wonder why a "senior Riders' executive" would find it in the team's interest to leak this information to a reporter; this seems like it's only going to make the team look bad, especially as if it is true, it will have first Taman and then Chamblin twisting in the wind. Sources leak all sorts of things for all sorts of motives, of course, so this may well play out as Lawless has been told, but it seems highly curious both that Taman would reveal this kind of information to anyone else in the organization before meeting with Reynolds and that the recipient of that information would then decide to pass it on to the media (and to a Winnipeg columnist rather than a local reporter). Again, that doesn't mean Lawless is wrong, but if he does prove to be right, that raises significant questions about the Riders' organization and why their "senior executives" are undermining their bosses publicly.
As per the merits of this move, if it does play out according to either of Lawless' scenarios (Taman fires Chamblin, or both fired at the end of the year)? From this corner, it seems like a vast overreaction. Yes, the Riders are 0-6, and yes, they're coming off a particularly bad loss, but we're talking about a head coach and a general manager who led this team to a Grey Cup championship just two years ago. Bad seasons happen, especially when you lose your top two quarterbacks, and this isn't even necessarily a bad season overall yet; we're only a third of the way through.
Yes, Taman's plan to go into this season with an aging group of players can be questioned, and so can Chamblin's reluctance to change his defensive scheme or delegate more of the running of the defence to others (Darrell Davis makes excellent points on that front here). Yes, there should probably be some pressure on both to adapt; NFL cuts are coming up soon, and Taman could find some players there, or perhaps swing a trade, while Chamblin could do a lot to turn this defence around if he showed some more flexibility. Calling for heads after just six games seems a little much, though, especially when the people involved recently won a Grey Cup and have put together plenty of good seasons. We'll see what happens, but if things play out as Lawless has reported, neither of those scenarios is necessarily the best long-term move for the Roughriders.