The latest candidate in the Miami Dolphins seven-season search for a successful successor to Dan Marino has thrown one touchdown pass in his three-year career.
The score came Monday night, and by the Dolphins' feeble standards, that means Cleo Lemon is tearing up the league.
With Lemon at quarterback, an offense that had gone seven consecutive quarters without any points scored 10 in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets. Miami lost 13-10, but Lemon's performance makes it likely that he'll share time with Joey Harrington in the season finale Sunday at Indianapolis. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on Tuesday night that Lemon would get the start.
"It's very important for my career," said Lemon, an unrestricted free agent after this season. "The more you play and the more people see you play, the more opportunities that creates."
Miami's third-string quarterback when the season started, Lemon has replaced Harrington in the past two games, coming off the bench to complete 20 of 31 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
"We'll probably end up playing both of them against Indy," coach Nick Saban said.
The game is important for the AFC South champion Colts (11-4), still in the running for a first-round bye in the playoffs. But for the Dolphins (6-9), who will be postseason spectators for the fifth year in a row, the game's primary significance may be the chance to further evaluate Lemon.
He entered the Jets game to start the third quarter with the score 0-0. His first two series failed to gain a yard, but he threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Randy McMichael and directed a 35-yard drive that produced a tying field goal with two minutes left.
"He seemed like he got more confident," Saban said. "He looked a little shaky in the beginning, but after the first couple of series he made some nice plays, did a good job and made some good throws."
Lemon is the flavor of the week at a position that has been a bitter subject since Marino's retirement following the 1999 season. Among those unable to approach the standards set by the Hall of Famer have been Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Ray Lucas, Sage Rosenfels, Brian Griese, A.J. Feeley and Gus Frerotte.
Saban tried to resolve the situation by trading last March for Daunte Culpepper. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback played in the first four games before the team decided he needed more time to recover from reconstructive knee surgery.
The erratic Harrington led Miami to an upset win over New England on Dec. 10 but played poorly in the past two games. As a result, the quarterback job remains unsettled heading into another offseason -- and it's unknown whether the Dolphins will even try to re-sign Lemon.
Undrafted after playing at Arkansas State, Lemon spent time with Baltimore and San Diego before joining the Dolphins in 2005. He played well in this year's exhibition games and took advantage of his excellent mobility against the Jets, twice rolling out to stretch the defense before throwing completions.
"We got some things going in the second half," he said. "We were moving the ball, and it was positive. Everybody felt good about it."
But as so often happens, with the game on the line, the Dolphins' defense was unable to make a stand. A 64-yard gain on a Jets screen pass set up the winning field goal with 10 seconds left.
The loss dropped the Dolphins to 1-5 against the rest of the AFC East. They're assured of their second losing season in the past three years -- but only their third since 1969.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.