The Toronto Argonauts are McLeod Bethel Thompson’s team now. By trading away Nick Arbuckle, the Argos have put the weight of their playoff, and championship hopes directly on the shoulders of McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The leap of faith and vote of confidence by the Boatmen’s brass in him is something that has eluded the 33-year old journeyman his entire career.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson has always been the bridesmaid and never the bride. Even though he led the CFL in TD passes back in 2019, Thompson has always been characterized as a hold the forte type, who is only playing until someone better and younger comes along. Never the solution, just a stop-gap temporary fix.
With a playoff berth at stake this Saturday at home against BC. McLeod Bethel-Thompson doesn’t need to look over his shoulder anymore; for the first time in his career, he has a chance in the next four games to finally be the quarterback that a franchise looks towards and entrusts to lead the way to success.
But McBeth’s path to this point makes his current ascent with the Argos an unlikely one. It’s never been in the cards for him until now.
The Long Winding Journey For McLeod Bethel-Thompson
Bethel-Thompson’s long winding journey as a quarterback has seen him pigeonholed as a placeholder or afterthought at the position. He’s never been anointed to lead a team, dating back to his playing days in college at UCLA and Sacramento State.
The California native, Bethel-Thompson, was a standout for San Francisco‘s Balboa High School in 2006, where he played football, basketball, and baseball. He was the City’s Football Player of the Year in 2006. In 2004 and 2005, he led his team to the Turkey Bowl, the City’s annual championship, held on Thanksgiving Day.
But Bethel-Thompson’s journey into college would mirror his entire pro career to this point. MBT was a redshirt freshman for UCLA in 2006, before sharing quarterback duties, as initially a fourth-stringer, with two other players (Ben Olson/Pat Cowan) for the Bruins as a sophomore.
Thompson was option C for UCLA. As a result of injuries at the quarterback position, Bethel-Thompson was starting for the Bruins in the Las Vegas Bowl by season’s end. In a game, which UCLA lost 17-16 to 19th ranked BYU in the final seconds, Bethel-Thompson drove his team for a potential game-winning 28-yard field goal, only to see the kick blocked.
Despite his efforts, when called upon, in an emergency situation with the Bruins, Bethel-Thompson was sent back down the depth chart. And with coaching changes at UCLA, McLeod transferred to Sacramento State. This wasn’t a situation that led to MBT starring at a smaller university. Bethel-Thompson would have to fight for playing time and reps for the rest of his college career. He played at Sacramento State from 2008 to 2010. He appeared in only 12 games in three seasons, completing 113 of 197 passes for 1,322 yards, with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The Ultimate Fringe Pro QB Career Of McLeod Bethel-Thompson
McLeod Bethel Thompson’s resume in college did not exactly warrant or illicit attention from pro football teams or scouts. But his size at 6’4 220, and his arm strength put him on the radar nonetheless despite his limited body of work in college.
Bethel-Thompson didn’t make his way onto an NFL roster right out of college. At least not immediately, After going undrafted in 2011, Bethel-Thompson’s first stop in his post-college playing career was in the Arena League with the San Jose Sabercats.
However, His stay in the AFL was brief, as Thompson would only play in three games. He would throw for 220 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. After the brief detour playing the indoor game, Thompson’s talents got him a look in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, and he nearly made the fringe of their roster before being let go at final cuts.
Next up for MBT, an opportunity to play quarterback in the United Football League with the Sacramento Mountain Lions. Ironically enough, one of the quarterbacks Bethel-Thompson shared the depth chart with was his current CFL counterpart, Trevor Harris. Thompson didn’t initially win the Lions starting QB job playing for the late great Dennis Green, but just like at UCLA, he was the team’s starter for their final two games by season’s end.
Bethel-Thompson’s performance in the UFL earned him a second stint in the NFL, this time on the Miami Dolphins practice squad. When the 2011 NFL season ended, Thompson would sign a futures contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Against all odds, he would make the Vikings 53 player roster for the 2012 season. But a year later, into the job as the Vikes third-string quarterback. Thompson would be released.
Back to the 49ers for McLeod as San Francisco claimed him on waivers. Roster shuffling would see Bethel-Thompson bounce between SF’s active roster and practice squad for the next year before he was rereleased. The New England Patriots would then sign MBT to their practice squad in 2014, but that stint would be short-lived, as Thompson would once again be released.
McLeod Bethel Thompson’s NFL roster rollercoaster would continue up until 2016. The Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, and San Francisco would bring McLeod back to their respective practice squads from 2014 to 2015. Bethel-Thompson’s journey in the NFL would end with him being released at final cuts by the Philadelphia Eagles.
All totaled nine different NFL stints for McLeod Bethel-Thompson with five different teams from 2011-2016. Despite all the practice time, reps, and time spent as a developmental quarterback on several rosters. McLeod Bethel-Thompson never threw a single pass in an NFL regular-season game.
Bethel-Thompson’s pro football pathway would eventually lead to the CFL, and a brief stint with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, after his doorway to get into the NFL closed. MBT would continue to stay on the workout circuit in the United States, hoping for another chance, and he even wound up playing in the Spring League. A decision that led him to Toronto, where he finally found his home as a player.
Better Late Than Never In The CFL
It took nearly four seasons in Canada with the Toronto Argonauts. But McLeod Bethel-Thompson finally doesn’t have to look over his shoulders anymore. The Argos are his team.
In 2017, Bethel-Thompson was a backup to the legendary Ricky Ray; he watched the team win a Grey Cup in true cinderella fashion. In 2018, MBT finally started to see the field and get some playing time. But his numbers were underwhelming as he transitioned to the Canadian game. (2,100 yards passing, 9 touchdowns, 10 interceptions).
A year later, McLeod Bethel-Thompson had a breakout season in 2019 as the team’s starter. Leading the CFL in touchdown passes with 26, completing 67.9% of his passes and throwing for over 4,000 yards. But despite his stellar effort, Thompson played second fiddle during the entire year, and the team looked to replace him every step of the way.
Ultimately, Toronto only had four wins in 2019. And MBT’s numbers were dismissed and seen as fancy window dressing. The critique was that Bethel-Thompson was a quarterback on a bad team, padding his stats in blowout games.
So when 2020 rolled around, Toronto had a new head coach in Calgary Stampeders OC Ryan Dinwiddie, and the newly minted leader of the Argos was going to bring in his star pupil Nick Arbuckle to captain the Boatmen’s offence. Toronto’s new HC/QB tandem was supposed to lead the franchise for many years to come.
By all accounts, McLeod Bethel-Thompson was still on Toronto’s radar to come back but for the time being, and with the CFL season canceled due to COVID. Thompson would try to redirect his playing efforts south of the border. He would participate in The Spring League again in 2020 and partake in HUB Football, a workout camp in California in front of NFL scouts.
Return Of The Mac
Ryan Dinwiddie and the Argos kept in touch with McLeod, and they eventually brought him back. Still, he was being brought in as an insurance policy for presumptive starter Nick Arbuckle.
There’s a good chance that if Arbuckle had stayed healthy and played at a top-level this season, that McLeod Bethel-Thompson might’ve been the quarterback traded away for cap reasons before the CFL deadline.
As we all know, that’s not how the story turned out. McLeod Bethel-Thompson took the reins on the pivot to start the season and led the team to a 4th quarter come from behind victory in Calgary. And then retook the starting job near midseason, leading the Boatmen from 3-3 to three consecutive victories over Montreal, Ottawa, and the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton on Thanksgiving. As Toronto’s starter, MBT is 4-2; he has completed 66% of his passes for 1,605 yards, with 9 touchdowns and six interceptions.
For the first time since 2017, the Argos are in a position to secure a playoff berth and potentially a home playoff game with a first-round bye if they win the division. Bethel-Thompson is a significant reason for the franchise’s current status.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson wasn’t supposed to be “the one” to lead Toronto back to the playoffs. But he’s finally getting his chance to, after years of being overlooked.
“It’s the things that you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth.”– Sarah Dessen.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson has fought and struggled every step of the way in his career. And he’s earned the opportunity in front of him by proving his worth to the team that has finally given him a chance.
Argos News And Notes Heading Into BC Game
The Argos got great news in regards to their offensive line on Wednesday. As reported here last week, barring a setback, starting RG Dariusz Bladek, who has had an All-Star caliber season, is on pace to be back in the Boatmen’s starting lineup this Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. Bladek has practiced in full the last two days.
Bladek has missed the last three games due to a biceps injury. It’s something that he tried to play through before being placed on the team’s six-game injured list. Bladek can come off the six-game injured list earlier than anticipated, but the move has salary cap ramifications when it does happen in the CFL. Part of the reason why Nick Arbuckle was traded to Edmonton was to help create weekly roster wiggle room under the cap to deal with the multitude of Toronto’s injuries.
With Bladek back in the lineup at RG, the Argos still have a decision to make at RT with Jamal Campbell injured. Trevon Tate started and struggled against Montreal in Campbell’s place, but Theren Churchill has received reps this week at tackle. The team will release their depth charts for Saturday’s game on Friday. Shane Richards could also be an option at RT after making several starts at guard. However, He has been limited in practice this week with an ankle injury. Toronto’s depth could be tested with Dylan Giffen, also missing practice time with a hip injury.
Toronto recently signed OT Martez Ivey, who was initially placed on the Argos suspended list. It remains to be seen if he can make his way onto the active roster. If Giffen and Richards were to miss the BC game. Toronto would be down to only potentially dressing six offensive linemen on game day. (Nicastro, Blake, Churchill, Bladek, Tate & Allen).
With DB Arjen Colquhoun out for the season with a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula sustained against Montreal. The Argos also got good news with Canadian DB Matthew Boateng (ankle) practicing in full. Not only does Boateng’s return to the lineup help the Boatmen’s secondary, but it aids the team when it comes to the ratio with Colquhoun down.
Two key defenders, LB Cam Judge (ankle) and DL Kony Ealy (groin), have been practicing in a limited fashion this week. Toronto could definitely use either player on defence, considering the unit’s massive struggles against the run in recent weeks.
Getting to 5-0 at home and clinching a playoff spot at BMO Field this Saturday will require an improved performance from Toronto’s entire team, which is coming off their worst outing of the season. The Boatmen have to be better in Week 13 than they were in Week 12 to earn their spot back to the playoffs.