New-look Elks still a ‘Ferrari’ despite early engine troubles: QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

The Edmonton Elks skidded to their fourth consecutive 0-2 start with a 23-20 loss to the Montreal Alouettes on Friday night, but starting quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson still believes his team has what it takes to win the CFL race in 2024.

“We just weren’t executing when it really mattered. There were a couple of really pivotal plays when we were just a hair off,” the 35-year-old told reporters post-game. “We’re a Ferrari, we truly are, and sometimes the carburetor’s just not quite (right). Turn it about a half turn and then we rollin’.”

The Elks made big changes this offseason, benching up-and-coming Canadian QB Tre Ford and bringing in Bethel-Thompson to stabilize their offence. Along with new additions to the receiving corps and special teams, there was hope that this would be the year for the Green and Gold to finally turn things around.

That hasn’t been the case on their first few laps around the track, as a fourth-quarter collapse in Week 1 cost them the home opener against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. They never led in the Week 2 follow-up versus the Als and treated fans at Commonwealth Stadium to another tight loss — a familiar refrain over the past few seasons.

Nevertheless, head coach and general manager Chris Jones believes those results had more to do with parity in the league than structural flaws.

“People will call me crazy but we can play with every single football team or beat every single football team in this league,” he insisted. “It’s just a matter of us playing our A-game and we’ve certainly not done that.”

Jones has posted an 8-30 record since taking over the franchise ahead of the 2022 season and could be on the hot seat with an early bye looming in Week 5. Bringing in an experienced veteran quarterback with Grey Cup pedigree was supposed to be his saving grace but offensive mistakes have left the engine sputtering once again.

Despite tossing for over 300 yards in each of his first two outings in Green and Gold, Bethel-Thompson has also thrown three interceptions and fumbled twice, losing one of them. Two picks from the Elks’ starter were once again critical in Week 2, costing the beleaguered organization a chance to upset the champs.

“He’s got to play better at his position and that’s what we just talked about with everybody,” Jones said of his quarterback.

“When you’ve got a one-score game against the team that just won the Grey Cup and they’ve got just about everybody back, it’s a good team that you’re playing. In pro football, it comes down to one or two plays, not five or six. Unfortunately, we didn’t make those one or two plays.”

Well-oiled Italian engineering isn’t meant to skid around tight corners and Bethel-Thompson took full responsibility for his poor driving. Having the right logo on the hood of the car means little if mistakes are being made behind the wheel.

“We’re an 0-2 football team and we know we should have won that football game. Credit to Montreal, they pulled it out, they made it happen. Just can’t turn the ball over like we did tonight and expect to win a football game,” he said. “I think there are (three) turnovers on our end and none on theirs, so that’s the difference in the football game. There’s no moral victories, we’ve got to fix it.”

While fans in northern Alberta may already be saying “arrivederci” to their team’s chances this season, Bethel-Thompson promises that the horsepower on the offence is obvious. They simply need a little tinkering from the pit crew to solve their current issues.

“I don’t see how you can watch the film and don’t see how talented we are,” he stressed.

“We are a Ferrari, we’ve got to prove it though. We’ve got to take it from somebody and no one in this league is gonna give it to you. It’s gonna be a battle every frickin week and we’ve got to turn this thing around.”

The Elks (0-2) will rev their engines until Saturday, June 22 when they visit the Toronto Argonauts (1-0) at 7:00 p.m. EDT.

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.