Toronto Argonauts re-sign Bethel-Thompson with chance to be starter

Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson #5 of the San Francisco 49ers and current Toronto Argonauts quarterback. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson #5 of the San Francisco 49ers and current Toronto Argonauts quarterback. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Argonauts are bringing back Mcleod Bethel-Thompson after the 31-year-old led the league in touchdown passes in 2019.

The Toronto Argonauts‘ quarterback room will have a familiar face in 2020.

The Argonauts announced today that McLeod Bethel-Thompson has re-signed with the team, penning a one-year extension that will carry through the 2020 season. The move is said to have picked up steam over the past few days, as the Argos look to bolster their squad ahead of the official opening of free agency.

Talking with TSN’s Matthew Scianitti, Bethel-Thompson said his motivation to return to Toronto was knowing that he would be the Argos’ starter, or at the very least, have a fair shot at competing for the starting position.

If that is true, then today’s news is an extremely interesting development.

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First-year coach Ryan Dinwiddie had been quite positive about his opinion of Bethel-Thompson – but it was still believed that Dinwiddie would want to pick his own man under centre. Management also went out of their way to say that everything was on the table roster wise for this new season, proving even more that Dinwiddie could choose who he wants at quarterback.

Well, Dinwiddie has chosen – or at the very least has talked himself into the 31-year-old California native getting another shot at the starting spot.

Bethel-Thompson’s 2019 campaign was a perfect exhibit of the team’s frustrations, as good personal performances were rarely coupled with success on the other side of the ball, and vice versa.

On the one hand, he led the league in touchdown passes, finished third in passing yards despite only playing 13 games, and was the starter in all four of the Argos wins that season. On the other, his 13 interceptions were costly mistakes that took the Argos out of a handful of games that could have been victories.

He often shined brilliantly on the stat sheet, but that’s the oldest conundrum in football. Teams behind pass the ball a lot. Winning teams usually don’t need to throw the ball 400 yards.

The thing is, though  – no one knows this more than McLeod.

"“It all means nothing at the end of the day,” he said after Toronto’s last home game of the season, when asked about his stats. “Leading the league, it’s not important. I’m going to be judged by wins at the end of the day, and that’s how it should be.”"

Bethel-Thompson joked that the 2019 campaign felt like “five nightmares in one”, with the constant reassigning of roles, and loss after loss. But through all that, he never lost the respect of his teammates, and clearly (after the news today), never lost the respect of management.

Dakota Prukop and Michael O’Connor gushed at how positive a teammate Bethel-Thompson was all season long, even when their success meant less playing time for himself. That is the kind of chemistry is exactly what struggling teams need, and in that sense, it’s easy to see why McLeod is returning.

I still expect Matt Nichols to be pursued by the Argos in free agency. All the other teams have a clear number one starter, or two guys already – they won’t bring in a third. If Matt Nichols plans to be in the CFL next year, it will be in Toronto. And if you’re just watching the tape, Nichols was arguably on pace for one of the more impressive years in a while before the injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

But don’t expect that news to spell the end for Bethel-Thompson, or for him to roll over and give up the job. Dinwiddie likes what he sees, and MBT will battle for the starting job through training camp and the pre-season. With just a one-year commitment, there isn’t much downside. Either the Argos grab a veteran quarterback, a great team guy that keeps the quarterback room fun and exciting – or they move on.

If they do sign Matt Nichols, it will probably be a longer commitment than one year. And if they don’t, or they decide that neither quarterback is the guy for the future, then finding this franchise’s starting quarterback is an answer for down the road anyway – nothing was lost by bringing Bethel-Thompson in for 2020.

Bethel-Thompson’s message to Argo’s fans shortly after the announcement was simple: “There are so many points and so many wins ahead of us.”

There’s a new spring in his step – a sharp contrast to the beaten-down man who walked out of the locker-room last fall. Considering how low everyone was at the conclusion of last year, this team could use the positivity.

Only time will tell if it’s all just wishful thinking, or if Ryan Dinwiddie really is as good at spotting talent as he thinks he is.

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What are your thoughts on Bethel-Thompson returning to the Argos? Do you expect him to be the starter next season? Let us know in the comments below.