Corey Chamblin says he's feeling good about the future of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, even though his first season as a CFL head coach ended with an early playoff exit.
The Roughriders were looking ahead to next season after a devastating 36-30 loss to the Calgary Stampeders in the West Division semi-final on Sunday.
Chamblin says the 2012 edition of the team consisted of young players or players who were new to the league — particularly on defence — meaning Saskatchewan's mediocre 8-10 record and swift elimination from the post-season can be written off as growing pains.
"A loss is a loss. It's time to move on," Chamblin told reporters Tuesday while reflecting on a season he characterized as equal parts "good and bad."
He said it took just seconds after the final whistle for Chamblin to shift focus to improving his team next season. The Grey Cup will be played at Mosaic Stadium in 2013 and there will be additional pressure to field a contender.
"We just have to have a better team," Chamblin said, adding that it's too early to talk about potential coaching or roster moves.
Chamblin believes the Roughriders "easily could have had an 11-win season."
"If it was a stretch to get eight (victories), I'd be more disappointed," he said.
Speaking metaphorically about a team that "dug into holes and dug out of holes" since Day 1, Chamblin said more experience as a head coach and more consistency and discipline from his players will help his team take the next step.
"Discipline is something the guys have to continue to work on," he said.
Saskatchewan had lapses at critical times in the loss to Calgary, but Chamblin does have something to work with as the Roughriders were the least penalized team over the regular season.
"We have a base, we set a foundation," Chamblin said. "We have a good core of guys here."
The Riders opened the regular season with three straight victories and closed it out with four consecutive losses.
Describing 2012 as a "roller coaster" season, quarterback Darian Durant said: "We came into the playoffs on a losing streak. That's not good."
Immediately following Sunday's game, Durant delivered a message to his teammates.
"Hold your head up," he told them. "Get your mind right in the off-season."
Durant says the key to success is consistency.
"We have to learn how to win," he said. "We saw what it takes to win a playoff game."
Durant adds the Roughriders need to strengthen the defence, raising the performance level from good to great.
"You have to have a great defence to win a Grey Cup," he said.
Linebacker Tyron Brackenridge said the young team needs to learn how to close out games.
"We didn't finish," he said.
Brackenridge is confident nonetheless that improvement is close and wholesale changes are not necessary.
"The talent in this (dressing) room is unbelievable," he said. "I'll pick this group over anybody."