Jacksonville Jaguars House Cleaning Shows Times Are Changing

Tim McClellanCorrespondent IJune 20, 2009

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 28: Quarterback Cleo Lemon #17of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks to pass the ball during the preseason game against the Washington Redskins on August 28, 2008 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

When the Jaguars signed Cleo Lemon to a relatively lucrative three-year contract last season, many people questioned the decision. 

Those questions grew louder as Lemon struggled in the preseason while long-time journeyman Todd Bouman outplayed him. 

Many thought that nepotism played a small part because of the fact that former personnel boss, James "Shack" Harris had been an integral part of Lemon finding himself a spot on a roster in the NFL when the Baltimore Ravens picked him up nearly two years after his college career had ended. 

Harris had a certain fondness for Lemon, and the accusation had at least some basis in truth.

Lemon had never dazzled anyone with his abilities in Baltimore, San Diego, or Miami, where he started in eight games during two seasons with the Dolphins. 

Lemon was an average quarterback by any stretch of the imagination.

When he won the backup position over Todd Bouman, the general consensus was that the contract he signed made it impossible for the Jaguars to anything other than stick with him as the primary insurance policy should David Garrard be injured.  

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But, during training camp, neither quarterback was able to separate from the other.  When one struggled, the other did as well.  Because performance could not be counted upon to make the determination, economics played a major part for obvious reasons. 

The Jaguars had committed to a chunk of guaranteed money that was significant enough to warrant the decision.

Fortunately, the Jaguars were never put into a position where they had to discover whether the investment was a wise one or not.  Lemon was never called into any extended action as a result of injury, and only played sparingly in two games where he made no pass attempts.

As the team began the process of preparing for the upcoming season, a roster purge was expected, and Lemon was considered a primary target. 

With Harris no longer in the picture, Gene Smith was trying to eliminate any dead wood from the roster that was considered a mistake to begin with. 

When the first waves of cuts were announced, Lemon somehow managed to survive.  However, his performance in mini-camp, and in organized team activities left a considerable amount of room for improvement. 

The decision was made to bring back the aging Bouman to provide some motivation for Lemon. 

It never materialized. 

As the team concluded the last week of organized team activities, Lemon was on the bubble.  That bubble burst this past week when he was released. 

With the cut, the team eliminated one of the few remaining questionable moves employed by the former personnel team.

The roster purge is obviously not completed yet, but the names that will follow will more than likely carry less cachet than what has been the case so far. 

With former starters like Jerry Porter, Drayton Florence, Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, and Khalif Barnes allowed to leave in free agency or cut outright, the team has been focused on eliminating the stench that has been hovering over the franchise in recent years to start anew. 

Lemon was just the latest casualty in the fumigation process.

Gene Smith appears to be intent on trying to rebuild the roster in a way which will minimize distractions and allow the team to thrive. 

So far, the effort appears to be on the right track.  The distractions are gone.

But, as is usually the case, new diversions are born.  Much depends upon how well Smith has been able to retool the roster to bring in players who will be more focused on the team dynamic and winning, and less focused on their own personal agendas. 

It is a new day in Jacksonville Jaguars history, and times are indeed changing. 

Whether this is for the better or not remains to be seen, but the sense for now is only good things will come from the decisions being made by Gene Smith.