At the NFL Scouting Combine last month, Bears general manager Ryan Pace was asked what he wanted in a backup quarterback.
“First of all,” he said, “you need to be able to come in and win if something happens.”
Chase Daniel, the man Pace chose to back up Mitch Trubisky, has started two games in eight seasons. He has won one game.
So Daniel, who turns 32 in October, still requires some projection. He has thrown 78 career passes; no other quarterback since the start of NFL record-keeping in 1930 has stayed employed that long and thrown fewer than 100.
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On Thursday, Daniel gave a five-word explanation as to why.
“No one’s really gotten hurt,” he said.
With one exception. In 2014, Daniel started the Chiefs’ season finale against the Chargers — and won — after starter Alex Smith suffered a lacerated spleen. Daniel’s other start came in the finale against the same team the year before, when the Chiefs rested Smith before the playoffs.
The last three years, though, Daniel has played exactly 24 snaps. The three starters ahead of him — Smith, the Eagles’ Carson Wentz and the Saints’ Drew Brees — took a combined 3,146 snaps.
But the Bears don’t need game film to know what they’re getting. Daniel played under new Bears coach Matt Nagy from 2013 to 2015 with the Chiefs. They’ve remained friends since — as have their wives.
Nagy’s boss, Pace, has known Daniel even longer. Daniel credits Pace, then the Saints’ pro scouting director, for lobbying to bring him to New Orleans in 2009. As an undrafted rookie that preseason, Daniel had put up impressive numbers — 14-for-24 passing for 143 yards, three touchdowns and a 116.8 passer rating — but the Redskins waived him anyway, convinced he would bounce back to their practice squad. The next day, the Saints lured him to theirs.
“I think that showed me — and I always kept that with me — it showed me [Pace’s] belief in me,” Daniel said. “And obviously, his signing me shows his belief in me as well.”
Daniel’s knowledge of Nagy’s system will benefit Trubisky, as will the presence of third-stringer Tyler Bray, whom the Bears signed to a one-year deal Friday after five years in Kansas City. Those two should help Trubisky — and the Bears’ coaching staff — learn the scheme. Beside Nagy, the only coach at Halas Hall to have run the West Coast/spread offense hybrid is offensive consultant Brad Childress, who followed his friend from the Chiefs.
With the Saints last year, Daniel ran the starting offense on Wednesdays, Brees’ day off. He doesn’t figure to get that luxury behind Trubisky, who needs all the reps he can get in the new offense.
Asked what it takes to operate Nagy’s scheme, Daniel was succinct.
“A brain,” he said.
Daniel has that — even if he doesn’t have the game snaps.
“It’s just about getting experience,” he said, “so I know when my number is called — if it’s ever called upon — I’m going to be ready.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.