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Looking at the Current Quarterback Situation in Edmonton

When the Edmonton Elks made it official with the signing of quarterback McLeod Bethel–Thompson on Sunday, January 7th, 2024, the Elks obtained a quarterback that will give the City of Edmonton an emotional relief that they have not seen for quite some time now.  

Some fans might see this as a short-term solution, while others will see the opposite as a long-term solution. We will analyze both options on why this is simply a win-win situation for a football club that has lacked being relevant in the City of Edmonton sporting landscape. 

When McLeod Bethel-Thompson was acquired by the Toronto Argonauts in 2017, he would be a player that was part of a quarterback list that included now Hall of Famer Ricky Ray, Cody Fajardo, and Jeff Mathews. McLeod Bethel-Thompson would study from one of the best of all time in the form of Ricky Ray. One of the best things that occurred that season for McLeod Bethel-Thompson was tasting success in his first season with the Double Blue, in which the Toronto Argonauts stunned the heavily favourite Calgary Stampeders in Ottawa, Ontario. The Argos were victorious in a 27-24 come-from-behind victory on that Sunday, November 26th, 2017. What was more bittersweet was that 2017 was the year of Canada’s 150th Birthday. The oldest team in North American sports also won a Grey Cup to celebrate Canada 150.

When the 2018 season arrived, the unthinkable had occurred. In week 2 during the Toronto Argonauts’ home opener, Ricky Ray went down after getting sandwiched between two Calgary defenders in what was a clean sack, but very much awkward landing on the end of Ricky Ray. He would be absent for the remainder of the 2018 season with a neck injury. When looking at the depth chart in 2018, consisted of Dakota Prukop, James Franklin, and McLeod Bethel-Thompson.  

The remainder of the 2018 Toronto Argonauts season became the complete opposite of when it was in 2017. The Boatmen would falter to a dismal 4-14 record without the leadership of Ricky Ray.

It was also when both James Franklin and McLeod Bethel-Thompson would battle for the number one spot in trying to engineer the Argonaut’s offence in the right direction. Both quarterbacks would struggle from time to time in what became a revolving door on who would start. However, McLeod Bethel-Thompson began to turn a corner in which he would separate himself from James Franklin in winning the starting job as the signal caller. McLeod Bethel Thompson’s numbers were not mind-blowing by any stretch, but he did show signs of promise in his development with 2,193 yards passing, with 9 touchdown passes, and 10 interceptions.       

This was also apparent during the 2019 season which was another below-average season that would also see the Argonauts replicate their 2018 season with the same win total going with a repeat 4-14 season. Although the Argonauts would encounter another bad season, McLeod Bethel-Thompson would have a breakout season with 4,024 yards passing, 26 touchdown passes, and 13 interceptions.   

Fast forward to the 2021 season after a cancelled 2020 season, along with a shortened 14-game schedule, McLeod Bethel-Thompson would lead the Toronto Argonauts back to their first winning season post the Ricky Ray era with a 9-5 record. McLeod Bethel-Thompson would complete the 2021 season with a total of 2,303 passing yards, with 12 touchdown passes, and 11 interceptions. For the Argonauts as a whole, it was a missed opportunity in which the Hamilton Tiger-Cats would walk away 27-19 victory in the CFL East Final at BMO Field in Toronto on Sunday, December 5th, 2021. And just like it is with the tough Toronto media as it is in pro sports, a lot of doubters in the media were questioning whether McLeod Bethel-Thompson was the right quarterback to lead the Boatmen to the promised land. 

When the 2022 season arrived, this was a season in which McLeod Bethel-Thompson appeared to have played the season like he had a chip on his shoulders. He would guide the Argonauts to an 11-7 record and follow up with his best performance as a Toronto Argonaut. McLeod Bethel-Thompson silenced the critics by completing the 2022 season with 4,713 passing yards, 23 touchdown passes, and 15 interceptions. 

More importantly, McLeod Bethel-Thompson would be the emotional leader in winning the Toronto Argonauts’ 18th, Grey Cup Championship in Regina, Saskatchewan by upsetting the mighty Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23 on November 20th, 2023.

After a lone season with the New Orleans Breakers of the United States Football League in 2023, McLeod Bethel-Thompson is now part of the Edmonton Elks for the 2024 CFL season on a one-year contract.

The Edmonton Elks Need a Shot in the Arm

With the Toronto Argonauts having their fair share of being the laughing stock in the CFL from the 2018 and 2019 seasons, there is the same as the current state of the Edmonton Elks. There is talent in the Edmonton Elks, but in some areas, more is needed to restore the pride as it once was with the Edmonton Elks franchise. 

Some Edmonton fans might not like the signing of McLeod Bethel-Thompson and feel that it should be Tre Ford’s time under center as he is a generational talent that the Edmonton Elks should not delay at the moment.

And you are right.

On the flip side, this is a league in which bodies go down week in and week out. By having a McLeod Bethel-Thompson with the Elks, he is also the mentor to Tre Ford moving forward. McLeod Bethel-Thompson gives the Elks a 1 and a 1A quarterback issue that, to say the least, is more than a good problem to have. If anything, it is the best problem to have.  

The Elks Are Here to Win Now  

It may be strange to say, but the Elks are here to win now and build the future simultaneously. Entering the 2024 CFL season, the Elks have hit rock bottom too long. Add in that it will be the club’s 75th Anniversary, and the turnaround has to show signs this season and not replicate their past recent seasons.  

Even looking at the Toronto Argonauts 2023 season (aside from getting stunned by Montreal in the 2023 East Final), they made the CFL relevant again in Toronto. Even if it is a small dent as it was in the past where in Toronto, they (the Argonauts) have been very much non-existent in any Toronto sports talk. With Edmonton in its current state, this can change in 2024.

What will Edmonton do When Tre Ford’s Contract is up?  

Sign him.

It’s that simple. 

Edmonton cannot afford to lose a future franchise quarterback via free agency when his contract expires. Tre Ford is most likely a little upset as he was entering the 2024 season as the depth chart starter before the McLeod Bethel-Thompson signing. This is completely understandable. But with the lack of play under center that was not Tre Ford is a risk that the Edmonton Elks cannot afford at the moment to avoid another disastrous season. What McLeod Bethel-Thompson brings is stability at the quarterback position which will rub off onto Tre Ford in a positive way.

Not the First Time

When looking at a two-quarterback system, then Edmonton does not approach this as foreign territory. All you have to do is look at one of the greatest historical periods in the mid-70s to early 80s to know what we are looking at here. That was the era when the then-called Edmonton Eskimos had both Tom Wilkinson and Warren Moon and the rest is history.

Another example is the Toronto Argonauts who had both Joe Barnes and Condredge Holloway. Their time most notably was during their 1983 season on route to a Grey Cup victory that season. And just like Edmonton before them, they used a two-quarterback system from time to time. When one struggled and or was injured, the other would come in and not miss a beat and continue with great success. This was more apparent with Edmonton rather than Toronto, but it did work. 

What if McLeod Bethel-Thompson Re-Signs Again in 2025 With Edmonton?

This will be the most difficult time as an Edmonton Elks fan. Let’s just say that they make a push for the playoffs in 2024 and or make the playoffs. It would be a huge weight lifted off Edmonton’s shoulders if they make the playoffs in 2024, and create a buzz in the City of Champions. More so, if they get to host a playoff game.

If McLeod Bethel-Thompson does re-sign in 2025 with the Edmonton Elks he will be 36 years old, and Tre Ford will be 26 years old. This will be a tough decision to make. At some point, you have to decide for the future and that future begins and ends with Tre Ford. Assuming that McLeod Bethel-Thompson will want more than the $500,000 (including incentives), he then might be outpriced for the Edmonton market to have two quarterbacks at almost $1,000,000 between them when re-signing Tre Ford comes to fruition. Tre Ford will be patient for when he is fully pencilled in to be the starting quarterback for the Edmonton Elks.  

But the question remains for how long?

A recent scenario can be said when looking at the Green Bay Packers situation with then-Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers, and now-starting quarterback Jordan Love. Jordan Love had to sit and wait for 3 full seasons until his number was called to lead his team as a full-time starter.

The big picture at the moment is only a positive message for Edmonton fans. The long-term picture is hopefully an easy transition back to a winning culture that includes Tre Ford long term. 

At the moment, all we can do is sit back, watch, and hopefully the Edmonton Elks’ turnaround occurs during the 2024 CFL season. 

Stay in tune with CFL News Hub for the 2024 season. 

Be sure to join Alt Football Reddit and connect with CFL and alt-football fans. 

author avatar
Dino Sepe Reporter
Dino Sepe has been an avid sports fan since he was nine years old. He has read multiple books regarding sports history from various eras, the origins of the game, great dynasties, great coaches, and great players. Dino's experience in writing was obtained at Humber College in Toronto, Ontario through the Theater Performance program. As an avid football fan following the NFL, CFL, NCAA, and USports Football, Dino has been writing about the Canadian Football League in various capacities since 2019. In December 2021, Dino joined the CFL News Hub team. Dino is proud to be part of the CFL News Hub contributing team and looks forward to covering the Edmonton Elks going into the future.
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