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.

“I want to be here. I feel I’m the leader of this team and I want to lead this team to a Grey Cup. That’s my ultimate goal,” 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 summer’s training camp is uncertain after Barker backed away for the first time from the unequivocal support he has given his rookie quarterback all season.

“It 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,” Barker said. “I imagine there will be competition (in training camp). He’s 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.”

What that evaluation will unveil is a wildly inconsistent offence. And, that’s 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. “I saw progress in certain aspects and in certain aspects he never got good enough at,” 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: “I don’t know if there’s a major difference other than systematically. As far as being a leader, that never changes.”

If he’s been doing the job for a year and doesn’t 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 isn’t enough.

There’s 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. “You want things to go perfect but that’s not the way it goes usually. How you bounce back is the tale of a man,” 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.

“I think I took a step forward in my professional career and it’s something to build off.”

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 Edmonton’s Ricky Ray.

Asked about the issues facing this club, Lemon said, “I’m not sure. I’m the wrong person to answer that because I don’t make those decisions. When it’s time to get this thing rolling again I want to be the guy that’s leading this team to the next level.”

And, there’s the dilemma. Some people don’t believe he ever got “this thing” rolling in the first place. There is a sense that Montreal didn’t just bury the Argonauts hopes; they buried Cleo Lemon.


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