Tuesday 6 September 2011

Is Cutting Lemon the Cure For What Ails the Argos?

The Cleo Lemon experiment is over in Toronto, as the Argos have released their former starting Quarterback.

I rarely travel outside the confines of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to talk specifically about another team, but the Argos QB situation the past season and a half has been oddly fascinating.

Lemon was, by far, the worst starting Quarterback in the CFL. He never seemed to grasp the Canadian game. Yet he was given 25 games to show his stuff. And when he did falter, Dalton Bell hardly lit things up. In fact, it could be argued that Bell is even worse than Lemon.

The odd part about releasing Lemon now is that he actually showed some improvement this season. His two-game stretch against the Alouettes and the Tiger-Cats in early August were two of Lemon's best starts of his CFL career. He threw for over 300 yards in each contest, with five touchdown passes and only one interception.

But that was part of the problem with Lemon. Those types of games were few and far between in his tenure with the Argonauts. The great performances were the exception, not the norm.

His case was also not helped any by his attitude after being pulled in favour of Dalton Bell in Toronto's loss on Friday to BC. Lemon was caught on camera laughing after Bell threw the third of his four interceptions. That's not the type of attitude a Quarterback, who is supposed to be the leader of the team, should be displaying.

With Lemon out of the picture, this is now Steven Jyles's team. Jyles is coming off the nine-game injury list and is likely to assume the starting role (provided he is fully healthy) when Toronto travels to Vancouver to take on the BC Lions.

But the question remains: does this change matter?

While Lemon was clearly not going to get the Argos to where they needed or wanted to be, the problem might not have been entirely Lemon's fault.

The Argos have one of the worst offensive systems in the CFL, and that falls squarely on the shoulders of Offensive Coordinator Jaime Elizondo. Elizondo's game plan never allowed for Lemon to succeed. Lemon was constantly forced to make five-yard dump-off passes, which is not the route to success in the Canadian Football League. Was the offensive ineptitude a reflection of Lemon's inability to do more or of Elizondo's play calling? Now that Lemon is gone, we will find out.

And what of Jim Barker? Barker is the team's General Manager and is responsible for bringing these players to Toronto. (I know that Adam Rita was the GM of record last year when Lemon was acquired, but Barker became GM after Rita was not retained following the 2010 season and no doubt had a say in player personnel in 2010.) Will his head be on the chopping block should the Argos continue their downward spiral?

It was Barker who stood by Lemon last season when everyone believed he wasn't the right guy. He smugly looked on as Lemon guided the Argos to a 9-9 record and an East Division Semi-Final win. Lemon was Barker's project, and that project failed. With Lemon gone, is Barker now on the same hot seat as Elizondo?

If Jyles is as good as I think he is – I have made it known numerous times that I am a big Steven Jyles fan – and the problems were with Lemon, then the Boatmen will be fine. They likely still won't make the playoffs in 2011, but 2012 would shape up nicely.

But if the problem is with Elizondo and/or Barker, then the Argos will continue to lose regardless of who the signal caller is.

Despite being 2-7, and all but out of the playoff picture, the Argos have now given people a reason to watch.

No comments:

Post a Comment