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Bethel-Thompson trying to help right Boatmen's ship in 2020

TORONTO — McLeod Bethel-Thompson has been working on a Masters in Education at Cal Berkeley this off-season — he’s even presenting a thesis on Wednesday. But he took a break from his studies to get some on-field business done with the only CFL franchise that he’s ever known.

Bethel-Thompson and the Toronto Argonauts came to terms on a one-year contract extension on Tuesday that will see the pivot don the Double Blue for a fourth consecutive season.

“It’s definitely a relief and I’m definitely excited to be back here,” Bethel-Thompson said to senior writer Chris O’Leary. “I told people earlier that I think it starts and ends with Pinball Clemons. I think he’s really setting a really good vision for winning in 2020, and I want to be a part of that. Meeting with coach Dinwiddie and the entire staff has been really positive.

“It’s a place I want to be; it’s a place where I can start, I can play and we can win a lot of games in 2020 and I’m excited to get the ball rolling. Now I can just go to work and do the easy stuff.”

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Bethel-Thompson came into the 2019 season as one of the two quarterbacks vying for the Argonauts’ starting quarterback job. Ultimately, James Franklin was named the team’s Week 1 starter. However, an injury saw Bethel-Thompson become the man to run the offence. He didn’t waste the chance to prove himself to the coaching staff.

The 31-year-old made his first start of 2019 in Week 4 against BC, throwing for 303 yards and a touchdown while completing 75 percent of his tosses in an 18-17 loss.

Bethel-Thompson continued to sling the ball for Toronto, finishing with over 300 yards and at least two touchdowns in three of his next four outings.

While the Argos finished the year with a 4-14 record in 2019, Bethel-Thompson was one of the team’s shining stars, completing 67 of his passes for 4,024 yards — which was the third-best total in the CFL — and a league-best 26 touchdown passes.

He walks into a very different situation heading into the 2020 campaign. After the Argos brought in franchise icon Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons to replace Jim Popp as general manager at the tail end of 2019, Toronto opted not to bring back offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine for a second year. His dismissal was followed shortly after by head coach Corey Chamblin.

With Clemons and John Murphy working to rebuild the roster, first-time head coach Ryan Dinwiddie will also be overseeing the offensive duties — that should involve a fair bit of work developing the quarterbacks as well.

While Bethel-Thompson has already gotten to know Pinball well over the last few months, he’s looking forward to working alongside Dinwiddie in 2020.

“I think it’s an iron-sharpens-iron situation,” Bethel-Thompson said of his new head coach. “I hold myself to really, really high expectations. I know that my best football is ahead of me. I haven’t played my best ball yet; I’ve expressed that to him and he’s expressed that to me as well. He’s seen a ceiling from me that’s about where I’m at right now. So I’m really encouraged by the fact that he’s gonna push me to be my best self.”

As for Bethel-Thompson’s status as the team’s starting quarterback heading into 2020, it’s still up in the air. The team has been linked to former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Matt Nichols for some time now, with those rumours amping up with Nick Arbuckle signing in Ottawa on Jan. 31.

“I come in as the starter and that’s my mindset and that’s how I approach the game,” Bethel-Thompson said of the situation. “That’s how I see it going forward. Do I expect them to bring in another quarterback? Absolutely. And, of course, somebody like Matt Nichols is a name that comes up and people keep mentioning him.

“… (After last year) I made sure this is my job to win and my job for now and that’s the way I’m approaching it.”

Bethel-Thompson has seen it all with the Boatmen during his short stint in the CFL. He was a part of the Grey Cup-winning team in 2017 and has also been around for the previous two seasons, where the Argos have a combined 8-28 record.

The veteran signal-caller added that while he was a pending free agent, he was “an Argo until he wasn’t.” When the window was open for a reunion the two sides got the job done, and now, he’s trying to help turn Toronto into a consistent contender again.

“What makes you want to stay is finishing the journey,” Bethel-Thompson said. “I know that the potential that was in this room and I had never lost that many games in my entire life. To do that in back to back seasons was really testing for my soul. So for me, that’s where the value can be on the flip side of this, when we do turn this around. Pinball is a huge part of that and Ryan Dinwiddie is a huge part of that. I know they’re people that are really invested and I see the vision and I see where they’re going.

“I’ve been through the fire here. So it’s exciting to turn that story around and complete a chapter book where we’ve gone. I’ve seen a Grey Cup here in 2017; I’ve been through two years of hell and I want to bring this team back out on the other side of that a winner and a competitor this year.”


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