Argos GM Clemons: Chamblin's future to be addressed in off-season

The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Corey Chamblin is still the Toronto Argonauts head coach.

General manager Mike (Pinball) Clemons said Chamblin's future will be addressed this off-season as Toronto's braintrust examines all facets of its football operation following a disappointing '19 season. Clemons met with reporters Sunday, less than a day after the Argos (4-14) ended their miserable season with a 21-18 road loss to the arch-rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats (15-3).

Chamblin completed his first season as Toronto's head coach after serving as the Argos' defensive co-ordinator in 2017 when they won the Grey Cup. In 2013, Chamblin led the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a CFL title.

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Clemons said he and vice-president of player personnel John Murphy will meet with assistant coaches Monday before huddling with the co-ordinators the following day. Clemons plans to meet with Chamblin and president John Manning later in the week with the Argos presenting its plans for 2020 to ownership (Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment) next week.

"It's a process here," Clemons said. "You don't want to go through a difficult season like this and not learn from it.

"We want to be a professional organization that does the right things time and time again. That's why process is so important here, that's why we do need to take the time and learn from the mistakes."

Clemons assumed GM duties Oct. 8 replacing Jim Popp, who was fired in his third season with Toronto. So it will be the amiable Clemons — who's won championships as an Argos player, coach and executive — who'll be front and centre in the franchise's rebuild.

And while process and treating all with respect remains of paramount importance to Clemons, the bottom line remains winning. Toronto hasn't made the CFL playoffs since its '17 Grey Cup victory.

"As nice as you can talk about wanting your players to feel good, our job is to win," Clemons said. "We want to embody this mutual obsession with getting it right, doing things right and we want that to be habit around here."

Chamblin isn't worrying about his future because there's still much to do.

"At the end of the day, I'll still be working the next couple of days and if I'm the coach I'll be here and if I'm not, I won't," he said. "It (uncertainty) isn't going to change my mindset . . . which is to wrap this up with the coaches, take a brief break and after that start finding a way to have a successful 2020."

Chamblin could only chuckle when asked if he thought he'd be back in 2020.

"It doesn't matter what I think," he said. "I thought we'd win the Grey Cup and we fell well short.

"It's football and if it's football it can be fixed. I've seen teams go from (being) sub-par teams one year to winning the championship the next. It's really about putting the pieces in place and things you need to have in place at all three levels to make sure you're winning football games."

The Argos continually were their own worst enemy this season with untimely penalties, turnovers and letdowns in play. Saturday's loss was a prime example of that as kickers Zach Medeiros and Ronnie Pfeffer both missed chip-shot field goals that went for singles and kept Hamilton close despite committing five turnovers (four interceptions, one fumble), including Shaq Richardson's 89-yard pick-six.

But a top priority this off-season must be finding a quality starting quarterback. Toronto heads into the off-season with only promising rookie Canadian Michael O'Connor under contract.

James Franklin opened the season as the starter but twice relinquished the No. 1 job to McLeod Bethel-Thompson and third-year pro Dakota Prukop started Toronto's regular-season finale. All three are scheduled to become free agents in February. 

"(With) James, there's a lot of potential there . . . it just didn't materialize into production," Chamblin said. "We went through every one of the options and at the end of the day we're still not in the championship.

"That's something we have to evaluate and find out what the best option is moving forward in 2020."

Clemons wouldn't assess the club's quarterbacks publicly.

"What we'll say (is) we're not settled in the position just yet," Clemons said. "We'll work to be our very best at that position when we begin the season next year."

One player facing an uncertain future is running back James Wilder Jr. Since capturing the CFL's top rookie honour in 2017 with 872 yards rushing, Wilder Jr. has run for 691 yards and 464 yards , respectively, the past two seasons although he averaged a solid five yards per carry in 2019.

Wilder Jr.'s contract expires in February and while he wants to return, he understands the only constant in pro sport is change.

"Yeah, that's part of the business and how it's been," he said. "I've been here for three seasons and you see a lot of new faces, a lot of guys that we won the Grey Cup with aren't here anymore."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2019.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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