Barker: QB sitation worked out 'for the best'

Argonauts general manager Jim Barker (left) has no regrets on how the quarterback situation was...

Argonauts general manager Jim Barker (left) has no regrets on how the quarterback situation was handled with the team. After all, it eventually led to Toronto trading for Ricky Ray (centre). (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency file photo)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:05 AM ET

TORONTO - If he had to do it over again, Jim Barker would stick with Cleo Lemon as long as he did.

For Barker, now solely the general manager of the Toronto Argonauts after spending last season as both the GM and the head coach, the failed Lemon experiment, which ended abruptly with the release of the quarterback in September, began the chain of events that brought Ricky Ray to Toronto.

Once Lemon was cut following a spat with Barker during a game, the Argos didn't have any choice but to insert Steven Jyles.

The Argos didn't make the playoffs, but Jyles did enough to show the Edmonton Eskimos he had the potential to start, and hence became part of the trade to Edmonton that made Ray an Argo.

"As hard as things are when they happen, they turn out for the best," Barker said on Wednesday night in Hamilton, minutes before the Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats met in a pre-season game at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

"Steven became a guy in our league who everybody knows has a chance to step forward. But when the opportunity comes up to get Ricky Ray, you are going to do what it takes.

"You can get that guy you can build on, and it has taken two years, but we got him."

Nearly 2 1/2 years after he was hired as head coach, only now can Barker say the Argos really are his team.

As long as Barker was employed by the Argos, he wanted to hire Scott Milanovich as head coach, and that came to fruition this past off-season.

Back in February 2010, Barker had to hurriedly build a coaching staff.

Now, though, in Milanovich and defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones, Barker has the men he is comfortable with.

"I feel like I am a coach to the coaches," Barker said. "Some of my best friends are Scott and Chris.

"But I stay away. I haven't been to one meeting. I am not going to be on the sideline. This is Scott's team. If he had come two years ago, things might have been a lot tougher for him. Now, it is set."

Even with Ray, however, questions remain around the Argos' receiving corps.

One could argue that a factor in Lemon's inability to adjust to the Canadian Football League was the failure of Barker to secure talented targets.

People haven't been joking in the past couple of years when they've said that to stop the Argos offence all that had to be done was put the brakes on Cory Boyd.

But there is no concern for Barker, who added receiver Jason Barnes in the winter after acquiring Maurice Mann late last season.

Barker is counting on Ray to make those around him better, as top players tend to do.

"There is nothing that is going to happen that is going to rattle him, and that permeates through your football team," Barker said.

"Guys just know if they execute, the ball is going to be there. I have been around Anthony Calvillo and Henry Burris, and I had Doug Flutie, and those guys are great quarterbacks.

"In terms of accuracy especially throwing the deep ball, there is nobody like (Ray). He has a touch that not every quarterback has, and I'm not sure you can learn the kind of touch he has."

The Argos know the Grey Cup will be contested on their turf in November, and they have zero intention of missing a party that will be happening in their own house.

"It's not so much about that to me as it is week in and week out when we are playing in the Rogers Centre in front of our new fans," Barker said.

"It's important that we entertain them. It's important that the game-day experience is fantastic. It's important that we have an exciting team that people want to come out and watch.

"We need to have exciting players -- Chad Owens, Cory Boyd, and now Ricky Ray. We have some players now who our fans can identify with who are as exciting and as good as players as there are in the league.

"If you had told me three years ago, okay, here is who your players are going to be, I would have said that would be a dream.

"I was hired to build this for long-term success, I feel like we are very close to that now."

OWENS A SLOT MACHINE

Perhaps Chad Owens has not done just about everything that can be accomplished on a football field.

Owens, the most outstanding special-teams player in the CFL in 2010 and the East Division's representative for that award in 2011, is expected to have a greater impact on offence in 2012.

"He's going to be a much more viable option," Argos GM Jim Barker said. "We moved him into the slot toward the end of last year, and that is where he needs to be, right next to the ball. You have (Andre) Durie on one side and Chad on the other to run sweeps and do a lot of different things that will cause teams problems. He has to learn patience and discipline, and I think he is going to be a much better receiver."

Owens caught 70 passes last season for 722 yards, but did not have a receiving TD.


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