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Former Mizzou Star Chase Daniel: The Best Backup QB That Money Can Buy

When the beloved former Mizzou quarterback Chase Daniel made a rare start and turned in a terrific performance to help lead the Chicago Bears to a 23-16 road victory over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day, the jokes began rolling in.

Daniel has been in the NFL for nine years. This was his third career start. He’s 2-1 as a starter. He’s attempted only 115 regular-season passes, completing 78, three four touchdowns. And that’s pretty much the beginning and the end of his NFL statistical ledger.

Daniel has been paid $28.3 million in his NFL career … which roughly translates into $9.25 million per start, and $14.1 million per win, and $363,000 per completion, and just under $39,900 per passing yard. And, of course, $9.43 million per touchdown pass.

Nice work if you can get it!

Hah hah hah…

But have you taken a look at many of the backup quarterbacks taking up space on NFL rosters? Not just the bad teams, either. But since we mentioned the lousy teams, here’s a sampling of their No. 2 and/or No. 3 quarterbacks:

Buffalo: Derek Anderson, and Matt Barkley.

Cincinnati: Jeff Driskell, and now Tom Savage. (Driskell is taking over for starter Andy Dalton, who was placed on IR this week with a broken thumb.)

Jacksonville: Cody Kessler (now the starter after Blake Bortles was benched.) Kessler has started eight games in his career, all for Cleveland, and is 0-8.

New York Giants: Alex Tanney. (Who?)

What’s really scary is the collection of backup quarterbacks that stand as protectors to save a team’s chances of making the playoffs or competing for a Super Bowl. Should anything happen to the starting quarterbacks, these guys hold their team’s fortunes in their hands.

In Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger is backed up by two green rookie quarterbacks, Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph.

Should Houston’s Deshaun Watson get hurt while running around making plays, his backup is Cleveland washout Brandon Weeden.

Denver is making a charge, and starter Case Keenum is playing well. His backup: another Cleveland washout, Kevin Hogan.

The LA Chargers are having a heck of a season, and Philip Rivers is putting up awesome numbers. But if Rivers succumbs to injury, the Chargers would hand the keys to the offense over to Geno Smith.

In Dallas, Dak Prescott’s No. 2 is someone named Cooper Rush.

Green Bay’s playoff chances are fading,  and that’s with future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers at QB1 … his backup is yet ANOTHER Cleveland reject, DeShone Kizer.

Kirk Cousins (Minnesota) is supported by Trevor Siemian.

Carolina’s Cam Newton exposes his body to punishing hits — even though his team’s No. 2 quarterback is a mystery man named Taylor Heinicke.

The breakout star of the NFL season is Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes. And the best that the Chiefs could come up with a No. 2 quarterback is Chad Henne. You think there would be a drop-off in performance at the position if Mahomes goes down?

Same with the LA Rams and Jared Goff.  His backup … still … is Sean Mannion. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2015.  Geez … talk about being vulnerable to a starting-QB injury.

Russell Wilson is doing his usual hero act in Seattle, having another superb campaign. The Seahawks are rolling, with a legit chance to make the postseason. Unless, of course, Wilson hobbles off and is replaced by Brett Hundley.

And we’re making fun of several NFL teams — New Orleans, Kansas City, Philadelphia, New Orleans (again) and Chicago for enriching Daniel through the years by paying him a total that’s approaching $30 million?

We should probably revise that opinion … or at least suspend our snark for a while.

Starting against the Lions in place of injured Chicago franchise quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and handling the assignment successfully, Daniel achieved something that Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Cam Newton failed to do earlier season: start at QB and win a game in Detroit.

Daniel was money against the Lions. He completed 73 percent of his throws for 230 yards … he passed for two touchdowns, with no turnovers … he shook off four sacks … he was never frazzled, rattled, or intimidated … he finished with a passer rating of 106.8 … and Daniel brought the Bears back, putting them in the lead to stay with a go-ahead touchdown pass in the 4th quarter.

“It’s one of the reasons why you spend the money that you spend on a good backup quarterback,” said retired NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, in comments made on CBS.

Coaches such as Sean Payton, Andy Reid and now Matt Nagy cherish Daniel because he’s always prepared, and knows the game plan inside and out. He’s meticulous about every detail. He’s respected by his teammates. They know that Daniel can handle an emergency without duress.

Nagy, the Bears’ brilliant first-year head coach, knew all about Daniel’s virtues after working closely with Chase during three seasons in Kansas City. Daniel was the No. 2 quarterback (but of course).   Nagy served as an offensive assistant and coordinator for Reid. And that’s why Nagy wanted Daniel to join him in Chicago this season to play a valuable role as a meaningful  backup to the talented but raw Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

“You feel very comfortable with him,” Nagy told reporters in Chicago. “Chase understands everything … he’s the oldest guy on our team, so he’s got experience. Chase and I have a relationship, a coach-player relationship going back three years in Kansas City. I know Chase inside-out; he knows me inside-out.  He’s extremely confident in how he plays because he’s so smart. The game is not fast to him when he plays. The other thing with Chase that I’ve always appreciated is the fact that he prepares every game like he’s the starter (so) if his time does come, he doesn’t blink. The confidence factor that he has, he’s been with a lot of good quarterbacks. He has experience and you have trust.”

And keep in mind that Daniel had virtually no practice reps in the short week of work leading into the early Thursday game at Detroit. That’s a challenging test for a backup — to step in on short notice, without rust or anxiety.

“He’s a pro — he went out there with a few walk-throughs and played well, led us to a ‘W,’  ” Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson told reporters. “He had great command of the huddle. Great communication.”

Daniel, 32, played four seasons at Mizzou. As a freshman in 2005, he backed up Brad Smith. Daniel started the next three years (2006-2008) for the Tigers, and averaged 4,056 yards and 33 touchdown throws per season, completing 68.4 percent of his attempts. Daniel finished his Mizzou career with 12,515 yards and 101 touchdown passes.

As a starter, Daniel directed a prolific offense that formed the foundation of coach Gary Pinkel’s strongest teams to that point. Over the three seasons the Tigers were ranked in the weekly AP Top 25 poll a total of 29 times. They reached No. 1 in the nation for a week after a scintillating 36-28 victory over Kansas on Nov. 24, 2007. Despite losing to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game, Mizzou blew out Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl to close with a 12-2 record and a final ranking of No. 4 in the nation via AP. Daniel and the Tigers followed with a 10-win season in 2007.

In his three seasons Daniel was the starting quarterback for 30 wins (and 11 losses) overall. He was 16-8 as a starter in the Big 12. He went 5-7 in games against ranked opponents.

Because of concerns over his height (6-0), Daniel wasn’t drafted in 2009. He was released on the final cut by Washington in 2009 training camp, and caught on with New Orleans in 2010. And as much as he would have liked to start, he wasn’t going to beat out Drew Brees, or even Alex Smith. But if he couldn’t start, Daniel was absolutely driven to be the most dependable, trustworthy backup in the NFL.

And Daniel was ready to go when the Bears –now 8-3 and leading the NFC North — needed him to come through.

“It means a lot to play,” Daniel told reporters in Chicago. “You don’t know when these opportunities will come and you just have to make the most of them.  At this point in my career it’s really truly not about the money. It’s about opportunities. And I felt really good about an opportunity here with coach Nagy to back up Mitch, to help groom him along. The job of a backup quarterback is to get the quarterback ready and to be prepared when your opportunity comes, and I felt like I do that pretty well.”

That explains why Daniel has made nearly $100,000 per regular-season snap during his career.

And given the shortage of quality backup quarterbacks, Daniel is worth it.

Thanks for reading …

-Bernie