METAIRIE, La. – It’s not so much that Chase Daniel is a reluctant leader.
He’s confident in his ability to lead the Saints as the starting quarterback and he’s confident that his teammates are behind him.
Daniel isn’t blind to reality. He understands that the Saints are at their best when Drew Brees, not only his teammate but one of his closest friends on the team, is at the helm.
But the situation being what it is – Brees holding out for a long-term contract with New Orleans – Daniel has done his best to get in whatever repetitions he could get with the first-team offense and teammates.
“Without our starting quarterback right here, it sort of falls into my lap,” Daniel said recently. “I’m more than happy to do it and I feel like I’m doing a good job and just getting more and more comfortable day in and day out.”
Daniel ended the Saints offseason organized team activities with a fractured right thumb, sitting out the final practice of the offseason.
Regardless, through the nine weeks of the Saints’ offseason program, including nine OTAs, Daniel feels like he made tremendous progress by taking advantage of a situation that couldn’t have been better tailored for what he needed.
“I think it went as well as it could possibly go for me,” Daniel said. “I think the main thing that I was wanting to do was to get the confidence of my teammates. I think without a doubt, I’ve done that. The guys believe in me. They know I can run this offense and win in the NFL. Quite frankly, I think I can too.
He added, “Do I have a long way to go? Absolutely, but I think this was the perfect opportunity for me to get into the type of offense we have, show the coaching staff and show my teammates, the players, that I can do it in a season if my name is called upon.”
Daniel has thrown only eight passes in his three years in the NFL, completing six of them for 45 yards. As of now, he doesn’t have the professional experience that would lend confidence to those who follow the Saints.
You have to go back to what he did at Missouri, however, to know that he’s up to the challenge. The Tigers, barely a blip on the college radar, turned into an annual Big XII and national contender under Daniel’s guidance.
He led Missouri to a 30-11 record as a three-year starter and the first two division titles in school history. He completed 68 percent of his passes for 12,515 yards with 101 touchdowns to only 41 interceptions. And he was a finalist for nearly every major national quarterback award.
It’s his competitiveness that has driven the 6-foot, 225-pound quarterback. And it’s why he has won over his teammates.
“I think Chase did great,” strong safety Roman Harper said. “I’m trying to tell you, I think this time for him was invaluable, just to actually lead the team, break the huddle in and out and for him to actually get some work against the ones and seeing some different coverages.”
Said acting head coach Joe Vitt, “The ball is not on the ground. The quarterback under exchange has been phenomenal. He’s operating within the system and parameters. I think his ball location is getting better and better every practice.”
Daniel, however, understands the importance of Brees to the team and the locker room.
“First and foremost Drew is my friend,” Daniel said. “I wish him the best in what happens. I know he’s working hard to get a deal done every single day. Has it got done? Obviously not. Will it? We all hope so.”