Lemon's future up in the air

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:12 PM ET

TORONTO - Toronto will have Cleo Lemon to kick around again.

But at no time during his post-season media briefing Monday did head coach Jim Barker say Lemon would continue to be his No. 1 quarterback next season.

ďI want to be here. I feel Iím the leader of this team and I want to lead this team to a Grey Cup. Thatís my ultimate goal,Ē Lemon said, less than 24 hours after watching the Montreal Alouettes destroy that goal, 48-17, in the Eastern final.

Whether he emerges as the starter after next summerís training camp is uncertain after Barker backed away for the first time from the unequivocal support he has given his rookie quarterback all season.

ďIt was a learning year for him. It was a learning year for the team. He was a rookie and at times he played like it,Ē Barker said. ďI imagine there will be competition (in training camp). Heís the starting quarterback now and as the off- season rolls, this is going to change as we go through and evaluate and look at the season as a whole.Ē

What that evaluation will unveil is a wildly inconsistent offence. And, thatís being polite. The Argonauts averaged a league-low 20.7 points a game and even that includes a substantial contribution from a record-setting special teams unit.

The Argonauts expected Lemon, who just turned 31, would face a learning curve but he had a penchant for interceptions and mistakes at crucial times. His 78.1 rating was the lowest among CFL starters. ďI saw progress in certain aspects and in certain aspects he never got good enough at,Ē Barker said.

Even the best quarterbacks in the CFL, such as Henry Burris and Anthony Calvillo, took time to develop. Question is, how long are the Argonauts willing to wait to see if Lemon can develop into a reliable pivot. Asked Monday about learning the differences between the CFL and NFL, Lemon said: ďI donít know if thereís a major difference other than systematically. As far as being a leader, that never changes.Ē

If heís been doing the job for a year and doesnít see any major differences, what does that say? And, how much has he actually learned?

Being a leader is fine. Laudable. But William Custer was a leader, too and everyone knows how that turned out. It isnít enough.

Thereís something to be said for competence and the jury is still out on whether Lemon can provide it consistently.

He threw 19 interceptions and had just 15 TD passes. In two playoff games he led the offence to one touchdown. ďYou want things to go perfect but thatís not the way it goes usually. How you bounce back is the tale of a man,Ē Lemon said.

There is an argument that the Argonauts reached the East final and won 10 games not because of Lemon, but despite him.

Lemon sees it differently.

ďI think I took a step forward in my professional career and itís something to build off.Ē

But the biggest question surrounding this team is, and will remain, its quarterback situation. Lemon never completely failed but neither has he proved capable of doing the job. There has been speculation the Argonauts are interested in Edmontonís Ricky Ray.

Asked about the issues facing this club, Lemon said, ďIím not sure. Iím the wrong person to answer that because I donít make those decisions. When itís time to get this thing rolling again I want to be the guy thatís leading this team to the next level.Ē

And, thereís the dilemma. Some people donít believe he ever got ďthis thingĒ rolling in the first place. There is a sense that Montreal didnít just bury the Argonauts hopes; they buried Cleo Lemon.


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