One would think that leading the CFL in touchdown passes would establish a quarterback as a legitimate starter.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw 26 touchdown passes in 2019, the most in the league. He threw more than Mike Reilly (20), Bo Levi Mitchell (19), Cody Fajardo (18) and Trevor Harris (16).
He also threw only 13 interceptions on 493 attempts, a rate of 2.6 percent. That’s less than Jeremiah Masoli (4.0 percent), Vernon Adams Jr. (3.0 percent), Mike Reilly (3.2 percent) and Bo Levi Mitchell (2.7 percent).
Why is it that many still don’t consider McLeod Bethel-Thompson a legitimate starting quarterback?
A part of the answer probably lies in how awful the Toronto Argonauts were a season ago. The offensive line struggled, the run game was poor, and the defence allowed 31.2 points per game. It’s little wonder the team finished with a 4-14 record.
With that said, quarterback is the only position we judge by wins and losses. Being considered a “winner” can greatly boost a passer’s draft stock in the NFL when compared to players with similar production but an inferior win-loss record.
Winning is important, sure, but this practice has never made much sense. Imagine doing the same with other positions.
“Sure, the running back averages eight yards per carry, but his team is 4-6. He can’t be that good.”
“We know he had 22 sacks as a senior, but his team finished at the bottom of the conference. He’s mediocre.”
“That kicker’s never missed a field goal, but his team only won five games last year. We don’t want him — we want a winner.”
I’m not suggesting that McLeod Bethel-Thompson deserves a spot in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. I’m just saying that CFL fans might need to give him a little more credit.
The San Francisco native traveled a long and winding road to achieve success in professional football.
Bethel-Thompson played sparingly in college between stints at UCLA and Sacramento State. He graduated with a 54 completion percentage, 1,615 passing yards, eight touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His rushing numbers were even worse: 62 carries for minus-three yards and two touchdowns.
The six-foot-four, 220-pounder signed in the Arena Football League after going unselected in the 2011 NFL draft. He played well with the San Jose SaberCats and got a look with the San Francisco 49ers, but was quickly released.
He then played with the AFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions before a slew of NFL stints: Miami Dolphins, 2011; Minnesota Vikings, 2012-2013; 49ers, 2013; New England Patriots, 2014; Vikings, 2014; Dolphins, 2014; 49ers, 2015; Philadelphia Eagles, 2016. He never dressed for a regular season game throughout all nine stops across the NFL.
Bethel-Thompson came to the CFL in September 2016, signing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He was released a month later but remained on the team’s negotiation list as Winnipeg wanted to bring him back for training camp the following year.
That didn’t happen because the Argonauts acquired his rights via trade following Bethel-Thompson’s performance in The Spring League.
The quarterback flourished after finally securing his first long-term home in professional football.
Bethel-Thompson played sparingly in 2017, dressing for six games. He started eight games the following year, completing 198-of-303 attempts for 2,193 yards, nine touchdowns and ten interceptions. The production was far from elite, but the passer was starting to improve.
That brings us to the 2019 season. The quarterback started 13 games, going 335-of-493 passing for 4,024 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. His quarterback rating was higher than Mike Reilly’s and Bo Levi Mitchell’s. He lost out on an East Division all-star nod to Vernon Adams Jr. despite besting him in every passing category.
Bethel-Thompson signed a one-year extension with Toronto in February 2020 worth $217,000 plus playtime incentives. He opted out of the deal in August to pursue the NFL and has since signed with The Spring League. He is slated to become a CFL free agent in February 2021.
Bethel-Thompson hasn’t proven his long-term viability as a CFL starting quarterback, but his performance in 2019 makes him one of the league’s most underrated players. Should he return to the CFL in 2021, it will be interesting to see if teams view the 32-year-old as an undisputed starter or someone who will have to fight for a No. 1 job.
3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players, a project that will run through December 31, 2020. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.
69. DB/RET Frankie Williams, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
70. DB T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions
71. QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
72. SAM Anthony Cioffi, Free Agent
73. DB Shaquille Richardson, Toronto Argonauts
74. REC Kamar Jorden, Calgary Stampeders
75. OL Darius Ciraco, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
76. REC Jalen Saunders, Free Agent
77. QB Dane Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
78. REC Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa Redblacks
79. RET Janarion Grant, Free Agent
80. DE Avery Ellis, Ottawa Redblacks
81. DE Cordarro Law, Calgary Stampeders
82. DB Brandon Alexander, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
83. OL Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
84. DB Branden Dozier, Free Agent
85. SAM Otha Foster, Saskatchewan Roughriders
86. DB Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa Redblacks
87. RB John White, B.C. Lions
88. LB Avery Williams, Ottawa Redblacks
89. LB Jovan Santos-Knox, Free Agent
90. DB Richard Leonard, Calgary Stampeders
91. REC Armanti Edwards, Edmonton Football Team
92. RB C.J. Gable, Free Agent
93. DT Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders
94. REC S.J. Green, Free Agent
95. DB Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders
96. DE John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes
97. DB Taylor Loffler, Montreal Alouettes
98. QB Nick Arbuckle, Ottawa Redblacks
99. ST Mike Miller, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
100. DE Chris Casher, B.C. Lions