January 13, 2011
It's been quite the offseason for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats so far, but the pieces for next year are finally starting to fall into place. Things started rather chaotically, with defensive coordinator Greg Marshall leaving to take the Saskatchewan Roughriders' head position, offensive coordinator Mike Gibson leaving for Calgary and even the team threatening to leave Hamilton for the Maritimes. or Burlington. However, the ongoing mess around the team's potential relocation appears to have finally been settled with their decision to rebuild Ivor Wynne Stadium (which was unanimously, if cautiously, endorsed by city council Wednesday). Now, it looks like their coaching staff is also starting to come together; last week's selection of Khari Jones as offensive coordinator was the first move, and it was followed Thursday by the hiring of Corey Chamblin (pictured above, right, with head coach Marcel Bellefeuille) as defensive coordinator, the promotion of Brad Miller to special-teams coordinator, linebackers coach and assistant head coach, and the appointment of Joe Womack as assistant general manager and director of player personnel.
Chamblin certainly looks like a strong replacement for Marshall. He hasn't been a coordinator before, most recently serving as the defensive backs coach in Calgary, but he's been widely discussed as a man on the rise. He was a finalist for the Riders' head coaching job, which tells you quite a bit in and of itself, and he was also linked to the defensive coordinator position in Winnipeg earlier this year. Hamilton's defence only conceded 450 points last year (second-best in the league), but that doesn't mean they'll take a status quo approach heading into the 2010 season. As Drew Edwards writes, Chamblin will bring a different mindset to the Tiger-Cats' defence:
After two years of Greg Marshall’s bend-but-don’t break approach, Bellefeuille has turned to Chamblin who spent two years as defensive backs coach in Calgary’s pressure system and is expected bring a little more heat to opposing offences.
“Aggressiveness is a mindset, a mentality, a go-get it type attitude and that’s more than just a scheme,” Chamblin said.
Womack could also be a nice addition. He's had some impressive scouting successes during his time with the Riders over the past four years, including helping to find John Chick, Stevie Baggs and Weston Dressler. He's known Tiger-Cats' GM Bob O'Billovich for over 30 years, and the two appear to have a strong relationship; that could bode well for Hamilton, as having a personnel department be on the same page with each other and with the coaching staff is essential for CFL success. He's got a strong CFL and NFL pedigree to boot, and he certainly knows his stuff. However, it does appear that the Riders were looking to move on without him this coming year. That doesn't necessarily reflect poorly on his work there, as part of that's probably thanks to Ken Miller joining Brendan Taman on the personnel side, reducing the resources available for other personnel guys. It does show that they're not going to be terribly aggrieved over losing him, however.
The promotion of Brad Miller is an interesting move. He replaces Dave Easley in the special-teams coordinator role, and Edwards writes that that's more due to wanting to retain Miller (despite not appointing him as DC) than trying to axe Easley, who led the return and cover teams to pretty decent success last season (and may still wind up on staff as a defensive/special teams assistant). That speaks highly of Miller. He has 25 years of coaching experience, including 12 in the CFL, so he should provide a bit of a veteran presence to complement the Tiger-Cats' otherwise young staff.
Every shuffle usually sees people leaving, and this one is no exception. This is going to be a very different Tiger-Cats' organization next year without Marshall, Gibson, offensive line coach Steve Buratto, Easley and regional scout Richard Wade. They found a good bit of success last season despite a first-round playoff loss to Toronto, going 9-9 and earning a home playoff game, so it's not as if the team was in a state of crisis; however, Marshall left for a promotion and Gibson left to be closer to his fiancée, so it's also not like they were firing people left, right and centre. The Tiger-Cats have a new, younger group that will likely apply plenty of innovation; the question remains if that will lead to better on-field results or not, and that won't be answered until the season starts.