Chase Daniel is not the answer for the Chiefs


The Kansas City Chiefs are off to a great start in the preseason. Two games. Two wins.

The record does not matter, but it still feels nice to be undefeated.

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One of the Chiefs who has excelled the most over those two games has been backup quarterback Chase Daniel. Enough to start bringing back some of those whispers of being a better option for K.C. than Alex Smith. Yes, I heard that during the Seahawks game.

So let me state two things right at the beginning: 1) I like Chase Daniel. 2) He is not the answer.

I know, he threw for more yards (82) than Smith did (81) against Seattle. And he did it in six fewer attempts (12) and three fewer completions (8) than Smith. He was also sacked less, threw a touchdown, and had no interceptions. And that game was not as good as his outing against the Arizona Cardinals the week before.

In Arizona, Daniel was on fire, and the MVP of the game. He led the team on three drives that resulted in three touchdowns, connecting with his receivers on 17 of 21 attempts. He ended the night with 189 yards through the air (an average of nine yards per attempt) and a quarterback rating of 143.8 per ESPN.

In the same game, and also on three drives, Smith managed to completed six out of 10 passes for a total of 42 yards. He had no touchdowns and an interception, and ended the game with a quarterback rating of 30. That is a stark difference.

Over the course of the preseason thus far, and especially against he Cardinals, Daniel has looked more like a starter than Smith. And that is one of the reasons I like Daniel. When called on he can perform. But that alone does not make me want to see him starting games.

Could Daniel start in the NFL? Absolutely, we have seen him do it twice against the San Diego Chargers in the past two seasons. And he might be a better option than who some teams place at the top of their depth chart. But neither of those facts makes him, ipso facto, a better option for the Chiefs than Smith.

Yes, Daniel has not looked bad in his outings against the Chargers. He went 21 for 30 with 200 yards and a touchdown in the overtime loss in 2013. But he took a step back in the win against San Diego the following year, completing 16 of 27 attempts for 157 yards and no touchdowns. Smith was worse statistically only once in 2014, going 11 for 16 with 108 yards in the win against the Seahawks. A game that was dominated by Jamaal Charles.

But before you start saying that means Daniel could be just as good as Smith, you might want to remember that those two starts against the Chargers are the only ones in his entire five-year NFL career. In the rest of 2014 he had a grand total one pass thrown. An incompletion against the Raiders.

And in the rest of 2013 he rarely saw the field the rest of the season, and only threw a pass in two other games. Completing three of five attempts in a 56-31 win over the Raiders in Week 15, and going one for three in passing attempts against the Redskins in Week 14.

And when you take a closer look at the game against Washington, those stats look worse. Daniel came into the game with 10:27 left in the final quarter and a 45-10 lead. Obviously, this was not likely passing territory. But over the course of four possessions (though only three really count, the fourth was all kneel downs) he his three passes resulted in one completion, one incompletion, and one interception.

With the game well in hand, calling only three passes is not hard to understand. However, Daniel committed the biggest sin he could in those three attempts – he turned the ball over. And he did it against a dreadful Redskins team that ended the season ranked 30th in passing defense by Pro Football Reference and went 3-13.

That was only one game, and any quarterback can have a bad day. But it is still part of his overall history, just like every less-than-awesome outing Smith has had. And when I look over those players’ histories, the only time I notice Daniel truly outshining Smith is in the preseason against an opponent’s second string. That is a great reason to keep him around as a backup, but not enough to make him a starter.

At the end of the day, both of these guys are known substances. They have been around long enough, and in this system long enough, to know who and what they are. Smith is a good starting quarterback, with the ability to be very good (see stats in the 2013 playoff game that shall not be named). Daniel is an excellent backup who you would not mind stepping in should the first man on the depth chart go down.

But being an excellent backup does not mean you are equal to a starter, even if that starter is a non-elite “game manager.” Both roles (starter and backup) are important, but should not be confused.