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Chase Daniel joins Bears to continue unprecedented career trajectory

The Chicago Bears landed their new backup quarterback Chase Daniel on a two-year contract Wednesday. The move solidifies the position behind Mitch Trubisky with a player who’s familiar with the system being implemented by head coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.

But what we don’t really know about Daniel at this point is whether he can play. The 31-year-old has thrown just 78 passes in his eight NFL seasons. According to Pro-Football-Reference’s Play Index, that lack of playing time in such a long career for a full-time quarterback is unprecedented.

Since 1930 when the league data for passing statistics began to be tracked, Daniel is the only full-time quarterback to throw fewer than 100 passes in his first eight seasons. The former backup for the Saints, Chiefs, and Eagles threw just 78 passes from 2010-17, so he’s spent almost the entirety of his career wearing a headset and waiting for his chance.

It’s clear that coaching staffs value what Daniel brings to the table because he keeps getting jobs. He preceded Nick Foles as the backup to Carson Wentz in 2016, then filled the No. 2 role behind Drew Brees in New Orleans last season. Now the Bears have brought him in on a multi-year deal to back up Trubisky, who could be primed for a big sophomore season after an offseason geared toward helping him.

Chase Daniel was the Eagles' backup QB behind Carson Wentz in 2016. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo

Assuming that Trubisky hangs onto that job for the whole 2018 season, then Daniel will continue a career trajectory that’s never happened in the NFL before. Every backup quarterback who’s played as long as him got some kind of opportunity. Some other players like Brad Smith and Tom Matte spent time on the QB depth chart, but also filled other roles on their teams.

But when it comes to players like Daniel who are backup quarterbacks and nothing else, he’s been asked to actually play less than any other. He’s thrown fewer passes than Trubisky had by the end of October of his rookie season. For those services over the past eight years, Daniel has earned more than $24 million, according to Sportrac.

For the Bears, they’ll be hoping that Daniel doesn’t actually play. The reality of a backup quarterback is that he only comes in when something has gone wrong, whether it’s an injury or ineffectiveness. The fact that Daniel has played so little is partially a function of playing for teams that had reliable starting quarterbacks like Brees, Wentz, and Alex Smith. Whether that’s good luck, good judgment, or a combination of the two, it’s part of what’s kept him in the league.

So now Daniel moves on to Chicago, where he’ll rock that clipboard like nobody’s business. If the time comes that he actually needs to play, it’ll be a chance to prove why he’s been in the league all these years.