Argos put faith in Jyles

Argos quarterback Steven Jyles directs traffic during practice at the University of Toronto campus...

Argos quarterback Steven Jyles directs traffic during practice at the University of Toronto campus in Mississauga, Ont., Sep. 6, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:25 PM ET

REGINA - One throw, one game, one opportunity, one moment when the fortunes of two quarterbacks would be altered forever, at least for now.

Jim Barker remembers the occasion, having worked in Calgary at a time when the Saskatchewan Roughriders were deciding whether to pin their hopes on a quarterback named Darian Durant or Steven Jyles.

Barker recalls as though it were yesterday a play that unfolded two years ago

“It was in Calgary and there was less than a minute to play,’’ recounted the Argos head coach and general manager. “There was this question as to whether Darian Durant was the starter. He threw that bomb to Getzlaf and it became Darian’s team.”

Now that Durant is back in his familiar territory surrounded by Ken Miller’s calming presence and confidence, it does feel like 2009 all over again in the prairies, even though the Green Riders are in a precarious state following their 1-7 beginning to the season.

In the two games since Miller returned to the sidelines following the dismissal of Greg Marshall, Durant has played at a level Barker can only hope Jyles will one day reach.

It goes without saying that a competent quarterback in a quarterback league such as the CFL is the most pressing need a team must address.

Barker thought he had the guy in Cleo Lemon, but not enough progression was shown over an extended period that provided hope of a long run as an established signal caller.

While the Riders are far from turning their season around, the feel with this team is much better than the uncertain air that followed their visit to Toronto last month, a trip that would see the end of Marshall and offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry.

Whether Jyles can turn around the Argos, no one knows, but Barker knows he may have long last seen that elusive quarterback a franchise such as Toronto has desperate coveted.

“Cleo was progressing, but he never became that guy where you could say this is the guy who is going to our quarterback for five, six years,’’ Barker said. “That’s what we need.

“Now, can Steven be that guy? I hope so.”

Hope is about the only thing the Argos can cling to, hope of better days ahead, hope of a quarterback who can inspire, make plays and lead, something Durant has been able to do.

As Jyles learns his receivers and the Argos offence, so does Barker learn more about his quarterback, who will make his second start Saturday afternoon.

“I never realized how nimble he was, how such a student of the game he was,’’ Barker confided. “He’s ready for his time and opportunity.”

Just like Durant needed his time and opportunity to cement his place, Jyles will be given every opportunity, whether the Argos win another game the rest of the season or whether the team mounts a run that pushes them into a playoff race.

“By the end of the season, he’s (Jyles) is going to be totally in tune with everything we’re doing,’’ predicted Barker.

In the first half of last week’s game in Vancouver, his first game experience in nearly one full calendar year, Jyles looked like a guy who hadn’t played in a year following a shoulder injury.

But in the second half, Jyles began to move around more, began to make plays when plays broke down, began to throw the ball on time.

This week in practice, only his second with Toronto’s first-team unit, more progression was made, more optimism felt.

“What I like is that he says what’s on his mind,’’ veteran slotback Jeremaine Copeland said of Jyles. “Whether it’s a coverage, a route, he’ll say what’s on his mind and that’s what you got to have from your starting quarterback.

“We haven’t had that before.”

Whatever one might think of Jyles, the guy does not lack for confidence.

“I want to be close to perfection,’’ Jyles said on Friday.

With a solid ground game to fall back on, Jyles’ ability to make plays on the run and through the air sounds good in theory, but it always comes down to game-day execution, an element that has eluded the Argos all season.

The way Durant has been able to turn around his season, and that of the Roughriders, it’s allowed Jyles to draw inspiration and belief of better days.

Players such as Durant and Jyles want to be under the microscope, a place Jyles will now have a chance to find permanent residence.

“I sense maturation on his part,’’ Miller said when asked to describe the difference he sees in Jyles now from Jyles’ time in Regina. “And he’s developed as a leader.”

Jyles and Durant speak on a weekly basis, exchange criticisms and compliments on each other’s play and keep in contact in the off-season.

“He’s a great leader and guys always want to play with a great leader,’’ Durant said of Jyles.


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