Barker bites back at media

Jim Barker realizes the Argos can't keep winning games if their offence does not produce. (QMI...

Jim Barker realizes the Argos can't keep winning games if their offence does not produce. (QMI Agency/Michael Peake)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

TORONTO - Jim Barker took a bite out of the media on Wednesday afternoon.

Fed up with questions surrounding his quarterback, and whether he intends to keep Cleo Lemon as his starter, the Argonauts head coach let loose after practice, making it clear that he has lost his patience with, in his words, “ignorant media.”

“What I am impatient with is the fact the guy has played five games and he is 3-2 and to have major media people questioning that he should be the quarterback, to me, is ignorant,” Barker said. “That’s the only point I am making. If we were No. 1 in offence and we were 0-5, would you be asking for a quarterback change? Good question.”

Probably not. But then we would be asking about what would be, presumably, a porous defence.

The Argos, not Lemon, are 3-2 heading into Edmonton to play the Eskimos on Friday night. The Argos aren’t winning because Lemon has made a smooth and quick adjustment to the Canadian Football League. No, the Argos are winning despite a poor offence, one that would be totally up the creek if not for Cory Boyd, who leads the CFL in rushing.

The Argos are averaging 288.2 yards a game, the lowest in the league. Lemon’s passing completion rate is 57.6%, the lowest among starters. Part of that is playing with several receivers who also are learning the CFL game.

Barker can protest all he wants, but there is nothing wrong with questioning Lemon and his abilities at this point. Queries from ignorant media? Come on. Nearly a third of the season is gone, and it’s not like Lemon is making big leaps and bounds each time out.

Neither Lemon nor his backup, Dalton Bell, seem to have much insight on the matter. Bell doesn’t want to rock the boat, and Lemon has repeatedly said he is comfortable with his progress.

In Barker’s mind, statistics are for losers.

“You can take statistics and turn them anyway you want to,” Barker said, his voice rising in the summer heat. “I am happy with where Cleo is at. Did I think he was going to come in and lead the league in offence, that we were going to be No. 1? No, I did not think that. I knew it was going to take time.”

We’re willing to bet Barker didn’t think the passing game would be lagging as much as it is, though., heading into Week 6.

Lemon has to get going. If he doesn’t, then Bell should get an opportunity. Certainly, the next three games should be seen as crucial in Lemon’s development. If there aren’t steps forward, the bye week could be a long one. And remember that it’s not like Bell had a difficult time in the pre-season. Bell actually outplayed Lemon, but Barker chose to go with the man who had more professional experience.

Barker realizes the Argos won’t continue to win games if the passing game does not pick it up. If Boyd begins to get shut down regularly like he was last week in Montreal, Lemon will have to improve.

“We have to progress,” Barker said. “That is the key. Do I want to throw for 400 yards and three interceptions and have two fumbles? No. (The goal is) to have 400 yards and not turn the ball over.

“Cleo is tough, he has great composure, and he is a leader. Anybody who has watched us from Day 1, there is no question about who the starting quarterback is. To me, it is questions that ignorant media ask.”


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