Backup quarterback Chase Daniel’s ability to step in for Mitchell Trubisky last week and guide the Chicago Bears to victory, without even having one full practice to prepare, came as no surprise to coach Matt Nagy.
“My history with Chase and the relationship that I have with him, he’s always been almost like a little bit of an assistant coach to us as well,” Nagy said on Wednesday.
Daniel’s devotion to learning the nuances of the Andy Reid offense — the system Daniel learned in Kansas City and Nagy brought with him the Chicago — made him the perfect backup quarterback for the Bears to pursue in free agency. Daniel, who before last week hadn’t started an NFL game since 2014, signed a two-year deal that included $7 million in guarantees.
Why give an older quarterback (Daniel turned 32 in October) so much guaranteed money when he’d made only three career regular-season starts over nine professional seasons? Because in a pinch, Daniel proved that smarts often supersede raw talent.
The Bears needed help from their mighty defense to knock off the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, but Daniel played a heady game, completing 27 of 37 passes for 230 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions (106.8 quarterback rating).
And due to the fact the Bears had the shortest turnaround in NFL history following their Week 11 Sunday night game versus Minnesota — the game in which Trubisky injured his right shoulder late in the fourth quarter on a late hit by Minnesota safety Harrison Smith — Chicago wasn’t able to hold a real practice, just a couple of short walk-throughs, before the club departed for Detroit.
“You don’t want this situation, but when you’re in a situation where we had last week where you feel very confident,” Nagy said. “We did not have one rep with the guys last week and we didn’t change anything. So now here’s a guy who in his role is fulfilling not only that quote-unquote assistant coach part but a guy that has the ability to step in and make coaches feel very comfortable that you can win games with him at quarterback.”
Saints coach Sean Payton also applauded Daniel’s success on such short notice. Payton coached Daniel for parts of five total seasons in New Orleans, including the quarterback’s first year in the league, when the Saints signed and cut the former Heisman Trophy finalist to and from their practice squad on several occasions.
“Just looking at the film, I didn’t see much of the game, but I thought he played well,” Payton said this week. “He’s someone that can take the reps to the field right away. One of the challenges if you’re not the starter is you don’t get the same amount of reps. But he’s smart, he’s very competitive, and the ball comes out quick. I thought he played well.”
The challenge this week is that Sunday’s opponent, the New York Giants, have fresh tape to scout Daniel.
But Daniel, who appears likely to start another week in place of Trubisky, now has the luxury of taking all the first-team reps during a normal week of practice. Trubisky has been listed as limited at practice, but Nagy said on Thursday that Trubisky still hasn’t thrown since the injury occurred on Nov. 18.
“It’ll be good to actually get some timing down with the receivers and tight ends and running backs, although I thought it was pretty good last week, too, for not really taking a full-speed rep all week,” Daniel said. “There’s always stuff you can grow on. I’m a perfectionist, so what I try to do is look at the negatives of the game and try to improve on it.
“And there were 10 incompletions against the Lions; some of those should’ve been completions. Four sacks; too many, those were all on me. So you just constantly try to be a perfectionist. That’s how I am and I was raised, just try to play the best game possible, and with practice, we can continue to do that.”
Trubisky left no doubt that he feels the offense is in good hands.
“Chase prepares like it’s nobody’s business,” Trubisky said. “So for him to prepare on a short week, and be thrown in there and come through for this team like he did, we’re very proud of him. I’m excited for the opportunity he had. It was huge for this football team. None of us were surprised. He went in there, did his job and did a great job for this team.”