The off-season coaching staff shuffles are continuing around the CFL, and the latest shake-up is in Regina. The Roughriders' staffing changes were projected to be some of the most interesting to follow this offseason, given how late they left the hiring of head coach Greg Marshall, and they haven't disappointed thus far. It came out this weekend that the team elected not to renew the contracts of special-teams coordinator Jim Daley (pictured above in his time as Winnipeg's head coach in 2005) and defensive backs coach Nelson Martin. Daley told The Regina Leader-Post's Murray McCormick that he saw the move as a natural result of the team's head-coaching change:
"I won't be back and that's a normal part of the business when the coaching staff changes,'' Daley said Friday from his Calgary home. "It depended on who was hired. There were a couple of guys who could have been hired (as head coach) where I would be in a situation where I would come back. Greg wasn't in one of those scenarios.''
Daley said there was uncertainty regarding the makeup of the coaching staff shortly after the Riders were beaten 21-18 by the Montreal Alouettes on Nov. 28 in the Grey Cup game. On Dec. 2, head coach Ken Miller resigned to concentrate on his duties as vice-president of football operations.
"Anytime you change the head coach, you're going to see changes,'' Daley said. "I would expect you will see several changes of the 10 men who coached the team last year. That's normal. A new coach has to bring in people he knows and is comfortable with. That's a common thing.''
From one perspective, that's definitely true. Plenty of coaching changes are made for the sake of familiarity rather than skill or track record, and there's a reason for that. Having skilled people in the position coach or coordinator positions can be important, but chemistry has to come into it as well. Successful teams tend to operate with a unified philosophy, with each person counted on to do their job and do it well. Head coaches don't have enough time to micromanage each and every aspect of the game, so they need people they can trust working under them. Thus, opting to bring in a different coach they're more personally familiar with isn't necessarily an indictment of his predecessor, but rather a move to increase their own comfort level. At the end of the day, regardless of who screws up, it's generally the head coach's job that's on the line. That makes putting the right people in place under him crucial.
However, some in Regina will definitely see Daley's departure as an indictment of the Riders' much-maligned special teams this year rather than just Marshall wanting to bring in his own guy. As I wrote earlier, Saskatchewan did run into plenty of special-teams issues last season, particularly during their losing skid. They largely seemed to get back on track in the playoffs, and part of the problems were certainly due to injuries and failures of on-field execution rather than coaching issues, but the bad times do tend to stand out more in the public memory.
One thing Daley certainly deserves full credit for is the way he didn't blame his players and didn't lash out at the public during the rough patches. Instead, he focused on working hard to turn things around, and his unit made substantial improvements and several key plays down the stretch. Things may not have worked out for him to stay on in Saskatchewan, but he can leave with his head held high.
It's also important to keep in mind that coaching and personnel decisions are more about more than just names on a chart and thoughts of dream coaching staffs some would like to see. Football is a business, and the people involved in it have lives, houses and families, but they don't tend to have a lot of stability. Packing up and moving on is a way of life for them, and the comments from Martin and Daley in McCormick's blog post on the matter certainly illustrate that.
Despite the departures of Daley and Martin, we still don't have a great idea of who's going to be forming the Roughriders' coaching staff for this upcoming season. McCormick notes that the current coaches' contracts run through the end of January, so it's possible we won't have definitive answers on who's coming and going until closer to that date. Richie Hall still hasn't been confirmed as defensive coordinator, but it does seem likely that he will be heading back to Regina and the announcement will be made soon. There is a chance Gary Etcheverry could stay on under Hall as well, though. In any case, the coaching carousel does appear to be coming to a stop; it's just a question of who's in which position when it does.