Chase Daniel Is A Solid Backup: Nothing More, Nothing Less


NFL cliche No. 341: “The backup quarterback is the most popular guy in town.” It’s one of the adages that pregame pundits rattle off every weekend, sounding like a customer-service rep scanning an FAQ answer bank. (Restart it? What is this diagnostic wizardry you speak of?)

But in Chase Daniel’s case, the saying has never rung more true.

Prior to the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs backup was the big man (figuratively speaking) on Mizzou’s campus—a two-hour drive from Arrowhead. And in the court of public opinion, that definitely plays a role.

Furthermore, Daniel has spent the past two years behind Alex Smith, who is surrounded by blind worship and runaway hatred the second he rolls out of bed. One side guards him like hobbits protecting Frodo; the other compares him to Jay Feeley and Kevin Kolb (because why compare stats when you can retweet).

Dec 7, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) and backup quarterback Chase Daniel (10) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Chiefs 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

So, given the above, some people have selective amnesia. To them, Smith is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, but the “offense is looking better with Daniel.”

Here are a few facts: In last year’s start versus the Chargers—one in which he was universally praised for—Daniel’s 189 passing yards (including sack yardage) were the fewest allowed by San Diego’s defense the entire season.

His 140-yard effort (again, including sack yardage) in this year’s finale marked the third-lowest output against the Chargers defense, beating out a 92-yard performance by Colin Kaepernick (during a game in which San Francisco rushed for 355 yards) and a 60-yard masterpiece from Michael Vick and Geno Smith.

As members of the Chiefs, here are the combined totals of Smith and Daniel versus San Diego:

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In fairness, Daniel predominantly played with second-stringers throughout his first start. But if you narrow the scope to just 2014, the comparison is still one-sided. Smith registered a higher completion percentage, 64 more passing yards (on one more attempt), 13 more rushing yards and one more touchdown.

Does that mean he’s an aerial assassin, sniping secondaries and slinging leather “over them mountains”? No, it means he’s better than Chase Daniel.

Compared to his league-wide cohorts, Smith is a middle-of-the-pack quarterback. Some slot him closer to No. 10 overall; others slot him closer to No. 20. He’s a solid starter, just like his backup is a solid backup.

That’s not a slight against Daniel, either. The veteran has, at the very least, proven that he can move the chains and post a moderate amount of points. But Kansas City has drooled over the new flavor of the week countless times in the past (see Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, drive-thru napper, etc.), and the experiment went awry in each instance.

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Regardless, if you check social media, you’ll find a sliver of fans falling into the same trap. And if Daniel is released, said group will grab their pitchforks and shout from the rooftops.

Per the NFLPA, the average team has $5.6 million in current cap space; the Chiefs have $2.2. Considering they still need to re-sign Justin Houston and Rodney Hudson (amongst others), cap casualties are inevitable, and Daniel tops the list of candidates.

Releasing him, according to Spotrac, would free up $3.8 million in 2015 cap space. And while some will scream for a trade, that isn’t going to happen.

Matt Schaub, who, believe it or not, was considered an efficient starter at one point in his career, was traded for a sixth-round pick. Ryan Mallett, who has an infinitely higher ceiling than Daniel, was traded for a conditional seventh-rounder. This isn’t Madden.

At the end of the day, Daniel is what he is: a benign Plan B. And as long as he’s judged in that context, that’s a positive.

But if you strip away the names and identities, one local quarterback recorded 5.8 yards per attempt and a 75.7 passer rating versus the Chargers this year; the other logged 7.9 yards per attempt, and his rating was 103.4.

Somehow, I doubt that’s a coincidence.

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