Ever since Ricky Ray retired after a gruesome injury in the 2018 season, the Toronto Argonauts have been searching for that ever-elusive elite starting quarterback.
The Argos brought in James Franklin who was tabbed as the club's next quarterback and the CFL’s next big thing. That would ultimately flop, and Franklin has since moved on to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson started the majority of the games for the Argos over the past two seasons, but nothing would come of it. Bethel-Thompson threw for 6,217 yards on a 67% completion rating. He would also add 35 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions while adding two more touchdowns with his legs. Still, the Argos missed the playoffs in both years that he was the starter.
Enter Matt Nichols. The quarterback that helped the Winnipeg Blue Bombers reach the brink, but could never bring the team over the hump. In early February, the Argos signed the free-agent QB to a three-year deal that will keep him in Toronto until the end of the 2022 season, assuming contracts are not terminated if there is no 2020 season.
A Nichols and Bethel-Thompson duo should allow the Argos to have options at the quarterback position, but Nichols should be the favourite to win the starting job, but Bethel-Thompson doesn’t think that is the case.
“I don’t shy away from that,” said Bethel-Thompson. “Do I think I should be given a job? No, that’s football. Competition brings out the best in everybody. A flower doesn’t try to compete with the flower next to them in nature, it just blooms.”
Does Bethel-Thompson stand a chance to be the Argos starter? Maybe. It’s probably unlikely that the big signing of the offseason for the Argos doesn’t start, but if Nichols struggles, then Bethel-Thompson will definitely be in the game.
Part of the issue for the Argos is the offence as a whole. They lack some of the star power that they have had in the past. No S.J. Green, no James Wilder Jr., and no Derel Walker. The best weapons that Nichols will have are the likes of Natey Adjei, Juwan Brescasin, Devaris Daniels and Marcus Thigpen.
Some players are going to have to step up and become breakout stars in order for this Argos offence to gain traction and get going before it’s too late. Llevi Noel is one of those names that are going to need to be contributors to this offence. Noel put up 512 yards in 2018 and 259 in 2019, but the Argos are going to need more out of the fifth-year player.
Luckily for the Argos, the defence looks alright. It’s a defence that can likely help them win a few games here and there, but the offence is going to need to get going for them to stand a chance. On paper, the best team in the CFL is the Argos bitter rival, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and with the Argos being in the East, they will need to play them at least one time in the regular season, and likely another time in the playoffs if they hope to reach the Grey Cup. Those will not be easy games to win if the offence doesn’t have the pieces.
As for Nichols, right now, I don’t think he can take this roster to the promise land. The good news for Argos fans is that I believe he can be the quarterback that takes you to the Grey Cup, but it won’t be this season. The Argos have three years to give Nichols a roster he can work with. You now have the quarterback, now you just need to give him the roster.