Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Time is ripe for a foolish boast

Burke should say something crazy, la Roughriders' Chamblin

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Babe RUTH called his shot, Mark Messier guaranteed a playoff victory, and now Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin has decided to enter the fray.

In case you missed it, on Wednesday, the day that Corey Chamblin became my favourite head coach in the CFL, he said, "I guarantee that Jon Cornish doesn't run for a 100 yards (on Sunday), and if he does, someone is losing their job."

That right there is the kind of talk that makes a retired defensive lineman want to spit shine his mouthguard and crack the bridge of his nose open one more time.

The proverbial gauntlet has been thrown down. The challenge is laid out to both his own defenders and the opposition, and it is nothing short of glorious.

Not on merit, not on enforceability, not on something particularly bright to say, but purely on balls and bravado. Thank the heavens for the confidence of youth. It's something his mentor, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin would say -- well, probably not in public -- but he would say it to his players behind closed doors.

There is nothing quite like a guarantee to vanquish the monotony of a Week 13 matchup, let alone one coming from a head coach.

There is no bigger statement you can make that tells your players you believe in them. I would have run through a steel girder for a head coach or a defensive co-ordinator who exclaimed publicly that an @$$ kicking was headed our opponents way, because it puts the pressure squarely on your shoulders.

It wouldn't be that I was worried to be cut, but simply that I didn't want to let a coach down who believed in me to the extent that he would make such an outlandish, potentially foolhardy, statement.

Head coaches just don't put themselves out there like that. They don't throw themselves into the spotlight and in harm's way with no lifeline.

If Cornish rushes for 100 yards on a reasonable number of carries on Sunday, I fully expect Corey to cut someone and to punt them to the front of the unemployment line.

If he falters, if he backs down from his words, he will lose more than just his credibility with the CFL community, but his players as well. Professional football is not a game where you can cry wolf with any effect more than once.

There are numerous ways this can go badly for Corey, which only adds to the drama. Saskatchewan can win the game, but Cornish could still rush for 100 yards, and it is terrible form to cut players after victories.

Calgary could also rush Cornish an inordinate number of times and have him eclipse the 100-yard mark with a miserable per-carry average, and that would be the wrong context to cut a player too, because my sports editor could gain 100 yards if he had 100 carries... possibly.

What will incite his players to the apex of chest-thumping machismo, though, is the fact these words are the absolute definition of bulletin board material.

In almost every conceivable scenario, it is frowned upon for players to make inflammatory statements the other team can rally around, and those are players, not a head coach.

Corey just spouted the verbal equivalent of walking up to one of the best offensive lines in the CFL and back-handing each and every one of them, while spitting tobacco juice on Cornish's cleats.

Usually to get bulletin board material from a head coach you need a secret decoder ring and the help of an interpreter. Corey's remarks were as subtle as a forearm shiver, and it's exciting to see how both teams will respond this Sunday.

These methods are unorthodox, but if you want to sell tickets, and if you want to stir the soul of a comatose roster, I would encourage Tim Burke to try something along these lines at least once this season.

Something like, "If we don't score a touchdown in the first half of this game against Hamilton, somebody, be it a player or coach, will have an apple and a road map sitting in their locker."

Whether it's implied or not, my keyboard felt electric just typing it.

In the face of a miserable season and potentially being out of the playoff picture before October, imagine a head coach that stands up and backs his men publicly, one final time, against all odds.

It's not professional, it's not outwardly defensible, but it's dramatic and it is an undeniable statement.

Better to go out swinging, kicking and clawing than following the handbook and protocol of the conservative and meek. If firing the head coach didn't work, maybe the immediacy and brutality of pending unemployment in an almost certifiable statement is the way to get things done.

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2012 C4

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