Toronto Argonauts: Pride Comes Before Jim Barker's Fall

Scott FitzsimmonsAnalyst IAugust 6, 2010

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 25:  Head Coach Doug Berry of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers congratulates Head Coach  Kent Austin of the Saskatchewan Rough Riders for a 23-19 victory during the 95th Grey Cup on November 25, 2007 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images


Many in the media that cover the CFL, and more importantly the Toronto media, are figuring out what a few of us have already figured out, and Jim Barker doesn’t like it.

Barker’s choice to go with Cleo Lemon as the starter for the beginning of the season was questioned by many people in the media and everywhere. Dalton Bell had much better numbers than Lemon in the preseason, but I can understand Barker’s reasoning for the choice.

Barker wanted to go with experience, and with Lemon at age 31 this year, and having played for four NFL teams, Barker figured there might be a learning curve for Lemon and things would get better as the season progressed.

The season may only be five games in, but everyone who has questioned Lemon is questioning again, and wondering how long it’ll be until Barker makes the decision to switch it up.

Apparently, all the questions Barker has been receiving about the quarterback choice have caused him to flip his lid. He continues to back his choice, and it seems the more frustrated he gets, the more his pride seems to kick in. The more his pride gets in the way, the longer he may decide to go with Lemon for a little too long.

How many times have we seen the NFL go with a quarterback as a way of justifying their picks and dollars spent, and ruining the season because their pride got in the way. Remember Rob Johnson and Doug Flutie? Johnson probably averaged more times being sacked than passes thrown, yet Buffalo stayed with him in spite of the fact that Doug Flutie could get the job done, and didn’t get sacked.

Dalton Bell may not be extremely experienced, but he’s been around the CFL game long enough to understand the game more than Lemon. Now, Lemon has been thrown to the wolves and not fared terribly, but he hasn’t wowed. His defense has done extremely well, and actually won two of those three wins for the Argos. So even though Lemon is 3-2, I have to wonder how many more wins the Argos will get this season. There is still a chance for another 3-15 season.

Jim Barker is a smart guy, and he has an eye for talent, but coaching has not really been his strong suit. He is very loyal and trusting, but I wonder how much that loyalty is factoring into his decision here. To be honest, I don’t really even know why Barker is so hung up on Lemon. His career stats aren’t spectacular, and other than “life” experience, Lemon hasn’t been the go to guy that should garner that much confidence.

In college, Lemon set school records for attempts, completions, passing yards, and touchdown. When you look closer you see that he threw 1,128 attempts, and completed only 48% of them. He did have 48 touchdowns, but threw 33 interceptions. Even his best season in college his pass completion percentage was only 47%.

His NFL experience wasn’t any better, as he only started eight games in three years. His percentage moved up to 55%, but he still threw seven interceptions to his eight touchdowns. Most of his time was with the Dolphins over two years, and they were one of the worst teams in NFL history as they only won one game in 2007.

Lemon hasn’t had much luck in the teams he has ended up with, but he has also never used those opportunities to turn those teams into winning teams. This year’s Argos may not be the worst team in CFL history, and Lemon still isn’t the factor that is causing them to win.

The Argonauts may not have deserved some of the wins they got so far, but a lopsided loss to the Alouettes last week showed them they have a long way to go before they will compete for the East.

Part of the problem Barker is having is that he’s not even using Dalton Bell to push Lemon. Bell has only thrown six passes this year, and the longer he sits on the sideline without serious game action, the longer it may take to shake off the rust if his number is called.

If Jim Barker is having trouble swallowing his pride and admitting that Cleo Lemon isn’t the quarterback he thought he could be, losses will pile up, and team confidence could be shaken to a point where this potential shown this season goes right down the toilet.