It’s déjà vu all over again for Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel, who is set to make his second career start Sunday against the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.
Daniel, a college star at Missouri, made his NFL debut at starting quarterback during last year’s regular-season finale at San Diego, completing 21 of 30 passes for 200 yards with a touchdown in a 27-24 overtime loss.
Flash forward one year — with the Chiefs set to play host to the Chargers in another regular-season finale, a playoff-elimination bout for the AFC West rivals — Daniel will start in place of Alex Smith, who was ruled out Friday with a lacerated spleen.
The circumstances for Daniel are considerably different from 2013 to 2014, but he doesn’t think it will matter much.
Daniel got the starting nod last season when the Chiefs, who were locked in as the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs, opted to rest the majority of their starters.
This season, the Chiefs need a win and some help — home losses by Baltimore and Houston — to return to the playoffs.
“It’s kind of weird,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “That’s weird that it’s the same team. That’s crazy, but it can’t hurt, right? So, that’s a good thing.”
Daniel insists he didn’t have butterflies last season (“I was excited; I wasn’t nervous,” he said) and won’t Sunday either even with a lot more than pride on the line.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Daniel, who took snaps as the backup Tuesday and Wednesday before the extent of Smith’s injury was discovered.
Daniel isn’t thrilled about Smith’s injury, but he is pumped for the opportunity to log meaningful NFL minutes.
“Quite honestly, I wouldn’t rather have it any other way than to be put in a situation to go out there with everything on the line,” Daniel said. “You have to win to get in and, obviously, we need some help, but what we’re focused on is winning the game.”
Daniel worked with the No. 1 offense Friday and spent extra time after practice working on timing with center Rodney Hudson and a group of receivers that included running back De’Anthony Thomas, tight ends Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce and wide receivers Albert Wilson and Jason Avant.
“You want as many reps as you can possibly get, but … I’ve worked my entire career being the No. 2 and preparing day in and day out like I’m going to be the starter,” Daniel said. “You’re one play away. Unfortunately, you don’t want these circumstances — and thank goodness Alex is OK — but this is a chance. This is a chance that you have to be ready for.”
Daniel’s teammates professed faith in Smith’s backup.
“This is his opportunity to show his talent … (and) I’m very confident in him,” Thomas said. “I feel like our team and our coaches are very confident in him. It’s all about him just going out there and making plays.”
Asked how he can help Daniel this week, Avant said, “Just communicating with him what I see and be open quicker. That’s pretty much it. He’s a pro; he’s been preparing. We just want to try to make his job as easy as we can.”
Rookie fifth-round pick Aaron Murray, a former Georgia star and the SEC’s all-time passing leader, will serve as Daniel’s backup.