Argos’ Ryan Dinwiddie admits McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s sideline behaviour not always ‘excusable’

Screengrab courtesy: TSN

Toronto Argonauts’ head coach Ryan Dinwiddie remains steadfast in his support of McLeod Bethel-Thompson ahead of the 109th Grey Cup but admitted his starting quarterback’s penchant for sideline outbursts isn’t always acceptable

“You’re going to have those moments on the sideline. Now, should it happen all the time? No. Or is it excusable? Some of it, no. No, it’s not,” Dinwiddie said during the CFL’s head coaches’ press conference Wednesday.

“At the same time, you’ve got to still keep an even keel and understand you’re going to have some of those moments but at the end of the day, we’ve got to come together and find a way to win this game.”

Now in his fifth CFL season, Bethel-Thompson has earned a reputation as a fiery competitor, occasionally crossing the line with his in-game interactions with coaches.

During Sunday’s East Final win over the Montreal Alouettes, the 34-year-old quarterback was seen berating his head coach after a diving Brandon Banks catch was ruled incomplete midway through the first quarter. The interaction was aggressive enough that an assistant, who appeared to be quarterbacks coach Mike Miller, felt the need to intervene and was pushed by Bethel-Thompson, prompting a brief physical altercation.

“Last week he wanted to challenge and he was upset about it. I’ll be honest with you, I felt like I had earphones on and I wasn’t even listening to him. I was like, ‘Whatever, what is our next play?'” Dinwiddie recalled.

“Those happen. It’s great that he wants to win, that’s the most important thing. Could he handle himself better last week? Yes, he could have, he knows that. Being the leader of the team with a potential fragile sideline when things aren’t going our way, is that going to be conducive to us winning? He understands that, I’m sure he won’t have that happen this Sunday.”

This is not the first time that Bethel-Thompson has come under fire for a high-profile incident in an East Final. Following a disappointing playoff loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2021, the quarterback was fined for shoving a TSN camera and was later forced to apologize.

He briefly addressed his latest controversy after arriving in Regina on Tuesday night, noting that he had already buried the hatchet with those involved and continues to have complete confidence in his coaches.

“I apologized to him, I shouldn’t have lost my temper,” Bethel-Thompson said. “I think it’s something we bond over, we’re both passionate people and we both love the game of football. We have that kind of fire in us. I apologized to him the next day, it was uncalled for.”

The former pro football journeyman had a career year in 2022, leading the league with 4,731 passing yards while throwing for 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Despite their sometimes heated in-game interactions, Dinwiddie remains one of Bethel-Thompson’s fiercest supporters.

“I think we get along well. When I took the job there I felt like we could win with him and I think he needed that confidence instilled in him, and we believe in him,” the coach said. “We’ve got to do our best job as coaches and put him into an opportunity to succeed and I think we’ve done that for the most part.”

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.