It did not take long at all to sense how seriously Chase Daniel was taking the 2015 preseason.
The best evidence of this was his performance, obviously, which was excellent. The seven-year veteran was slinging it good, completing an absurd 41 of 53 passes for 388 yards, five touchdowns and an interception in four games — all wins.
And equally impressive was the way Daniel, who always hung around to do postgame interviews, would eloquently explain what went right or what went wrong.
His performance clearly mattered to him, preseason or not, and the 29-year-old was dead-set on proving that during what amounted to an audition, of sorts, in the final year of his deal.
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“I know I can play in this league, bottom-line,” Daniel now says. “I think I’ve proven it.”
And not just play, either.
“Start,” he continues, “and play at a high level.”
Now Daniel, who went undrafted in 2009 after a prolific college career at Missouri because of questions about his size (6 feet, 225 pounds) and arm strength, is set to hit free agency after spending the last seven years as an understudy to Drew Brees in New Orleans, where he won a Super Bowl in February 2010, and Alex Smith with the Chiefs.
And Daniel is confident the time he spent under those two, plus a pair of offensive gurus in the Saints’ Sean Payton and the Chiefs’ Andy Reid — who saw enough of him to sign him to a three-year, $10 million deal in 2013 — has also prepared him for this challenge.
“It’s just opened my mind up to different possibilities, whether it be different plays, different ways to look at things, different ways of teaching the quarterback,” said Daniel, who has worked diligently to improve his arm strength and mobility in the pocket. “I’ve been pretty lucky to be with Sean Payton and Andy Reid as mentors that have taught me how to play quarterback, along with Alex Smith and Drew Brees, two Pro Bowl guys.
“I’ve sat in their meetings a little bit and learned as much as possible from them and picked and chosen what I want to take from each coach and each player, and sort of have a lot of myself into it as well,” Daniel said. “I’d say that’s pretty good little background.”
Daniel has only started two games in his career thus far, both in Kansas City. He started the 2013 and 2014 season finales against San Diego, playing well each time and guiding the Chiefs to a 1-1 record — though he was a missed field goal away in the 2013 game from being 2-0.
“First and foremost, every time I take the field — whether it be preseason or Super Bowl — that’s my mentality, to go out there and give my team the best chance they have to win a football game,” Daniel said. “That’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter about stats or anything else. As a quarterback, you’re expected to lead a football team and make plays.”
In all, he’s done that in limited regular-season action, completing 50 of 77 passes (64.9 percent) for 464 yards, a touchdown and an interception. And when combined with his preseason stats from the last seven years (and yes, he knows it’s the preseason), Daniel believes his statline — in which he’s completed 241 of 364 passes (66 percent) for 2,673 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions — is an indication of what he can do with full-time work.
“I think I feel good with where I’m at professionally, and (that’s) from seeing how the game works, from it slowing down ... to protections, to what the defense is doing,” Daniel said. “And I’ve showed — in the short time I’ve had in real game situations — that I can handle it.
“Preseason stats, I think, they play into it, as well. Look at all seven preseasons I’ve had. It sort of works out to one real season and that’s a small sample size, but given an opportunity, there could be a lot more there.”
Daniel isn’t the only one who feels that way, either. New Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson spent the last three years as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, and he was asked directly at the NFL combine Wednesday whether Daniel can be a starter in this league.
“Given an opportunity, yes, I think he can be,” Pederson said. “The people that obviously worked with him for the last three years know that he has an opportunity there, and hopefully he gets his chance.”
Pederson said Daniel’s diligence and work ethic in a reserve role — which he learned first while shadowing Brees for four years — during his Chiefs tenure impressed him, calling him a leader in his own way.
“He’s a solid backup, kind of reminded me of me when I was a backup in Green Bay,” Pederson said. “He’s a guy that really helped Alex, on and off the football field … what he’s done with Alex behind the scenes, the way he’s kind of coached Alex, the way he prepares during the week, the way he studies, the way he puts himself in a starter’s mentality on Sunday.
“The couple games he did start in Kansas City, to me, has proven that he can take over a team.”
Pederson’s quarterback situation in Philly is a bit of a mess, by the way, with incumbent quarterback Sam Bradford set to hit free agency. Pederson said Wednesday the Eagles are trying to re-sign Bradford, but common sense dictates that someone like Daniel might not be a bad insurance plan, given their shared history, even if they re-sign Bradford or draft a young quarterback.
Daniel, when asked if he wants to return to Kansas City, gave a thoughtful, but honest, reply that seemed to reinforce what his actions during the preseason suggested — that he wants to be a starter in this league, that he has the film to prove it, and that he feels he’s ready for the opportunity.
“It’s not up to me,” Daniel said. “I’m sure they’ll probably want to re-sign me, but it’s a business and I’m going to look about what’s best for me and my family, really.”