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May 31, 2021

Is there a QB competition brewing in Toronto?

Argonauts.ca

Mac is back.

The Toronto Argonauts have announced that quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson has signed with the club.

“I’m so excited to be back in Toronto and I’m so excited to be back playing football,” said the San Francisco native. “There are a lot of options in Canada, but no place feels like home like Toronto. I love the city, I love the fans, and I love what’s being built there.”

Bethel-Thompson first arrived in Toronto in 2017, winning a Grey Cup as a backup to Ricky Ray. He was the on-again, off-again starter for the subsequent two seasons, playing his best football in 2019; leading the CFL in touchdown passes with 26, while finishing third in passing yards with 4,024 despite only starting in 13 games.

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“I think I was playing football in my first year up there blind (as a starter with the Argos in 2018),” he admitted in a phone conversation with Argonauts.ca from his home in Los Angeles. “I don’t think I had time to study the Canadian football game, I didn’t know the structure of it. I think it was only into my second year playing that I really started to learn by doing. I could see my game expand once I understood the structure of the game; the timing and the space, and I could be comfortable. I know my best football is ahead of me.”

Bethel-Thompson is now one of five quarterbacks on the roster, joining Nick Arbuckle, Antonio Pipkin, Kelly Bryant and Nick Tiano, all of whom are new to the organization.

Head Coach Ryan Dinwiddie is happy to get the deal done, and excited to see how things play out during training camp now that there are two potential starting QBs, Bethel-Thompson and Arbuckle, on the roster.

“Mac is a good quarterback, I’ve always been a fan from afar,” Dinwiddie told Argonauts.ca in a phone interview. “We love Nick and we know we can win games with him, but every starting quarterback is just one hit away and we just felt we didn’t have two starting calibre quarterbacks in the building to push each other. We also have a security blanket; coaches and the locker room know if one guy goes down, we can still win football games.”

The acquisition leads to one question that will be on everyone’s mind; is there a potential starting quarterback controversy brewing?

“That’s not how I view it,” Dinwiddie explained. “We know there are injuries in this league, so that’s why you’ve got to have two. I feel like those guys will work well together, they’re good leaders, and they’re going to make each other better at the same time.”

When asked about the competition, Bethel-Thompson had nothing but great things to say about both Arbuckle and Pipkin and is looking forward to working with the entire group.

“I’m very excited to get into the room,” he said. “Competition brings out the best in everybody. The coaches are saying the best man plays and that’s all you can ever ask for in football. I’m really looking forward to building up a quarterback room that is rabid with competition but also filled with brotherhood. I’ve genuinely gotten to a place in my career where I want the best for the man beside me. If there’s a player like Nick Arbuckle or Antonio Pipkin pushing me, it’s only going to make me better and that’s an exciting thing.”

That’s the kind of leadership that the Argo locker room came to appreciate from Bethel-Thompson, and Vice President of Player Personnel John Murphy says bringing the 32-year old QB back was done for more than just the Xs and Os.

“It gives us options,” he said in a phone interview with Argonauts.ca. “It gives Nick a reliable veteran to bounce things off of. Mike O’Connor raved all year about McLeod as a leader, as a guy who would work with him, share ideas and take questions. He’s not just here to play, he’s here to be a part of the bigger picture because he’s already a positive part of our culture.”

 

While many will think having two quarterbacks competing for the starting job is a bad thing, Murphy has taken a look at fairly recent Argo history to illustrate what he wants the team’s quarterback picture to look like.

“We’re hoping to be in the type of situation that the Argos were in when Jim Barker and Scott Milanovich built the quarterback room with Ricky Ray, Trevor Harris, Zach Collaros and Cody Fajardo. We’re looking to mimic what they were able to do.”

Murphy, General Manager Mike “Pinball” Clemons and the personnel department have been busy trying to build up more than just the depth at QB. Just before the 2021 free-agent season began, CFL.ca ranked its top 30 pending free agents. With the signing of M B-T, the Argos now have eight of those thirty under contract, including five of the top nine; Cameron Judge (3), Henoc Muamba (4), Charleston Hughes (6), Bethel-Thompson (8), Cordarro Law (9), Drake Nevis (14), Eric Rogers (15) and John White (23).

With so many new faces in the lineup there will be heated battles at almost every position. The signing of Bethel-Thompson will put a lot of focus on how the competition at the most important position on the field plays out.

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