‘I hope he comes back’: McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s future uncertain following Argos’ Grey Cup win

Photo: Michael Scraper/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Toronto Argonauts’ quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson was forced to watch his team win a Grey Cup from a spot on the sidelines, but that did nothing to diminish the euphoria of victory.

“Are you kidding me? I didn’t even get on the stage because I just wanted to watch them. I haven’t even held the trophy, I don’t care,” the veteran signal-caller said on the field, beaming with pride.

“Just seeing Henoc (Muamba) and (Boris) Bede and Kurleigh (Gittens Jr.) and (Shawn) Oakman, just to name a few — I can’t do justice to all of them — but to see them with big smiles on their faces because of what they’ve been through this year, because of what they put in; that’s what it’s all about. That’s why I play the game, to earn the respect of my brothers.”

Bethel-Thompson had his team trailing through three quarters of action at Mosaic Stadium on Sunday, going 15-of-28 passing for 203 yards through the air before he was forced from the game early in the fourth. His thumb caught on the arm of Bombers’ defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat during a routine incompletion, dislocating badly. Attempts to pin the digit back into place were unsuccessful and backup Chad Kelly had to enter the game, ultimately leading Toronto on a touchdown drive to take the lead.

Despite a desire to captain his team to glory, Bethel-Thompson set ego aside and supported his teammate. The result was one of the most thrilling finishes in Grey Cup history, as defensive end Robbie Smith blocked the field goal with less than a minute remaining to secure a one-point win.

“We heard all the noise. We heard they’re a better team, better position by position across the board,” a fiery Bethel-Thompson shared, still hiding his swollen hand tight to his body underneath a coat.

“We played them 14 weeks ago and we gave that one away. We know we compare with them. We have the talent in this room, like this we can beat anybody. We can beat anybody and we took the crap all year. We know we didn’t play up to our potential and people decided to throw the hammer down on us and we decided to not listen to it.”

Attention now turns to the 34-year-old quarterback’s future, with rumours swirling around his potential retirement throughout the playoffs. Bethel-Thompson gave no creedence to that speculation throughout Grey Cup week but admitted post-game that discussions would be happening with those closest to him.

“The most important thing right now is for me to go home and be with my family. I gotta talk with my wife and my daughter, it has been a really hard year after being apart in two different countries,” he said. “So I would love to play more football in my future, I think I’ve got a lot of great years playing football (left in me), but the number one thing is I want to go home and hug my wife Chinaka and go hug my baby girl Aziza. I love them so much and I hope they’re watching.”

“I love you guys, you are the reason why I play football, so thank you. Thank you for giving me this time in a different country to go chase my dream. Thank you for making all the sacrifices you did all year.”

Bethel-Thompson led the CFL in passing yards in 2022, completing 387-of-579 passes for 4,731 yards, 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. In five seasons with the Argonauts, he has thrown for 13,261 yards, 70 touchdowns and 49 interception — good enough for fourth all-time in the franchise’s passing record book behind Ricky Ray, Conredge Holloway and Damon Allen.

The Argos’ future under centre will be a topic of heavy discussion this offseason, with Kelly’s Grey Cup heroism potentially changing his timeline to become a starter and future Hall of Famer Bo Levi Mitchell also on the market. Nevertheless, head coach Ryan Dinwiddie focused his attention on Bethel-Thompson post-game and expressed a strong desire to see him return.

“I’m so happy for McLeod. He’s cemented his legacy a little bit, he’s a Grey Cup-winning quarterback,” Dinwiddie said. “I don’t know what the future holds for him and I know him and his wife, she’s got a job and he wants to kind of help her out. I hope he comes back. I love that guy, he’s fought through adversity and had a lot of critics that I don’t think were fair.”

While the call to further silence his critics will be powerful, the call of home may be stronger. His wife, Chinaka Hodge, is currently serving as headwriter for an upcoming Marvel series on Disney+ called Ironheart, a demanding profession that require plenty of assistance on the home front. As a result, many around the league have said they would not be surprised in Bethel-Thompson steps away.

Leaving on the high of a Grey Cup victory would be a better swan song than most, though the quarterback does disagree with his head coach about the impact of the game on how he’ll be remembered.

“My legacy is not for me to decide,” Bethel-Thompson insisted. “I just appreciate my brothers coming together. What we have to deal with on a week-to-week basis, just getting to practice, getting into our facility; we all bought into something special.”

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.