Fair and Foul - Defending Macbeth
As I am reminded weekly by Ben, I have not written an article in a while, but I felt it was time for an intervention. As any listener of the pod or even reader of my occasional article will know, I am not a cheerleader for the Argo franchise. I am a fan, but I call things as I see them. For example, I was not a fan of bringing McLeod Bethel-Thompson back two years ago, as I was not enamoured of his game or potential. But that was before I watched Nick Arbuckle play and since then I have found myself supporting MBT more often than not. So, I write this article today as an intervention for the fans online and the fans who booed on Saturday night at BMO and those who are clamouring for Chad Kelly on social media. STOP.
I understand there is a desire for a more dynamic threat at quarterback, but this desire is like my desire to retire at 50; it is not based on logic or reality. So, before you start yelling at me, lets look at the case for bringing in Kelly to start:
Let’s start with the historical evidence of rookie quarterback success in the CFL. Quarterback is an incredibly difficult position to play, you have to be a surgeon while flying a jet plane. It is difficult to be great and it is almost impossible to be good at it as a rookie. Yes, in the NFL, there has been in recent history, quarterbacks who are successful, but the CFL and the NFL are not a direct comparison for a number of reasons, starting with the amount of money and resources available. In the CFL, the last time a rookie quarterback won rookie of the year was Chris Isaac in 1982. That is so long ago, it feels old to me; most people didn’t use an answering machine; we still had two roughrider teams in the CFL. For 40 years no rookie quarterback has succeeded well enough to win the rookie of the year. Why? Teams didn’t need a quarterback? Of course not, because the game is way too fast and way too demanding for a rookie. Players need time to learn the playbook, learn the protection calls, read a 12-man Canadian defense rather than the US one they grew up with and Chad Kelly will not be the exception to this reality. He will throw checkdowns, he will be sacked, he will be chased, and he will throw picks. This is what rookies do.
Next, and more importantly, let’s evaluate MBT’s performance this year for the Eastern Division leading Argonauts. When compared with the other 8 starting quarterbacks in the league, McLeod Bethel-Thompson is currently second in the league in completions and yards passing, third in passing percentage and touchdowns, and seventh in interceptions thrown. He is objectively having a good statistical season and he is responsible for the Argos victories that have them in first. Granted it is first in a weak East and it is not an insurmountable lead, but you are what your record is. I can not stress these statistics enough; he is playing very well. I don’t know what Argo fans are watching when they feel he is the problem. The kicker missed to cost them a game vs Winnipeg, BC overwhelmed, WR drops killed the Ottawa comeback and the Calgary loss still came down to the final plays.
I assume that some of this QB-clamouring is about the kid in BC tearing up the league. But the wunderkind Rourke in BC (until he joins the NFL next year) is not a rookie. He is not. He was drafted in the 2020 draft as a highly rated prospect, spent the covid 2020 year learning the playbook, spent the 2021 season on the bench learning the game and now is performing at an elite level. Is that possible for Kelly? Maybe with a season or two to learn the playbook and get comfortable with reading defenses in film study. Let’s compare their last seasons in college ball: For Ole Miss Kelly went 19/8 (td/int) and threw for 2700 yards but had only 84 yards rushing. Rourke for Ohio University went 20/5, with 2800 yards and 867 rushing yards. Rourke is a dynamic weapon; Chad Kelly is a pocket quarterback who is shorter and less experienced than the starter.
As anyone who has gone to practice can report, Kelly throws a nice deep ball and the ball pops out of his hand on throws. There is no doubting his potential to be a good quarterback in the CFL. He was drafted in the NFL and that is not nothing and he seems to have found some stability in his life and is no longer making the mistakes of his youth which is great to see. But to put him in now could ruin him as a prospect. Young quarterbacks who get started too early, get the internal clock in their heads sped up because the game is moving too fast for them. They start to see ghosts on the field, and they fear the pass rush that they know is coming, they become too reliant on checkdowns as a life preserver, and they stop the discipline of keeping eyes downfield.
My final thoughts on the debate are simply to ask fans to watch and understand the game. MBT is not the MVP of the league, but he is a highly capable quarterback who can run a professional football team. Ask Edmonton or Ottawa if they would like that. This season is in many ways the last of this team’s window. They were great last year and came up short in the Eastern Final. After the season, an evaluation of the coaching and roster will happen, and changes will be made as they need some but to not fully support this team who still have a chance to win the Grey Cup if they can figure out a running game or get someone cut from the NFL in the backfield is madness. MADNESS. GET BEHIND THIS TEAM. IT IS GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN.
Sending Kelly out now is sending a car with two tires out of a pitstop. He is not ready, Yet.