Chase Daniel understands the laws of the land in the NFL. He's a seven-year veteran who has plied the trade of the quarterback position, specifically the backup perspective, and knows the landscape that is both rewarding and unforgiving. He played for seven seasons in New Orleans and Kansas City and threw 77 passes. He understands patience. He also understands competition, and that's one of the primary reasons he is an Eagle after signing a three-year contract as an unrestricted free agent.
"I wouldn't be in the NFL if I didn't think I could be a starting quarterback," Daniel said during his press conference Thursday. "There are certain steps that you have to take and I look forward to competing here. The quarterbacks are going to be competing. The entire team is going to be competing.
"I go back to my time in New Orleans when I was with Drew (Brees). I'm a second-year pro. He's a 10-year, nine-year vet, future Hall of Famer and I'm telling him every single day when I'm the backup that I'm coming to take your job, dude. I'm coming. I don't care if you're Drew Brees. I don't care who you are. My mindset's not going to change. We're the best of friends still to this day. It brought out the best in us. It made us closer and it made the team better."
Daniel joins the quarterback room at the NovaCare Complex, one that has been as shifting as the sands for much of the most recent decade. From Donovan McNabb to Kevin Kolb to Michael Vick to Nick Foles to Mark Sanchez to Sam Bradford, it has changed. Until the team finds its man, until the team finds its solution, well, it's best to keep adding pieces and taking shots and looking under every rock and in every corner to find the franchise player.
Some out there seem atwitter at the idea of a "quarterback competition," for 2016, as if anything is a given for this Philadelphia Eagles team, as if new head coach Doug Pederson is going to hand a job over to any player. Pederson comes in armed with no handouts, no freebies. He needs to find out who wants to be an Eagle and buy into his system and to play the game the way he wants it to be played. He wants players, as he said the day he was introduced as the head coach in January, "who want to work hard. I want to see guys who want to come to work every day, who want to practice. They don't want to take days off. They gotta be so beat up, banged up, that you have to drag them off the field."
So let's talk about the quarterback position, clearly the most important in the game of football. Pederson on Thursday called it "the face of your franchise. Quarterback is the key to the kingdom," and that just about says everything.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at Eagles Free Agency at the NovaCare Complex...
The Eagles worked long and hard to get Bradford a new deal, a two-year contract he signed last week. Pederson, as he evaluated the Eagles from 2015 upon taking the job, liked what Bradford did in the second half of his first season in Philadelphia as he knocked the rust off from missing nearly two years of football, as he absorbed a beating in the pocket for an offense that never found its rhythm, as he stepped into throws and trusted his legs more and more and gained confidence in his receiving corps that wasn't always there for him. Bradford is a talented thrower of the football, a former first overall pick in the NFL Draft who can spin it beautifully, who has the intelligence and the timing part of the game down and who should have success in Pederson's "hybrid" version of the West Coast offense with the proper support around him.
The Eagles feel good about having Bradford back in the fold and they are excited to see how his game advances with a full offseason of conditioning, rather than rehabilitation, ahead of him. He is "the No. 1," Pederson said on Thursday. But that doesn't mean that the Eagles go into a season with all of their hopes in his breadbasket. That is the fool's way to go about the quarterbacking business, and Pederson is far too smart to approach the position in that manner.
It is for that very reason why the Eagles were so aggressive in their pursuit of the very-coveted (according to multiple reports out there) Daniel, who worked closely with Pederson for three seasons while Pederson was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City. Whatever your opinion of Daniel, it's not as informed as that of Pederson's, who spent full days with Daniel in the film room, on the practice field and on the headset in game situations. Daniel has thrown two games worth of passes in his regular season NFL life, so there is a huge unknown for everyone, Pederson included. Sometimes, though, you have to go with your gut and with the institutional knowledge accrued in three seasons of a side-by-side working relationship.
Pederson wants Daniel to compete with Bradford -- "iron sharpens iron at every position" -- and isn't that the way every player would want his head coach to look at him? Earn playing time. Let's see what you've got. Didn't cornerback Ron Brooks say the same thing in his press conference on Thursday, that he's here to win a starting job? That's the mentality every player should have. It applies, certainly, throughout the roster, and 2016 is, indeed, a fresh start for everyone with a new coaching staff on board.
Who knows how this quarterback room will look once the season begins? Sanchez remains on the roster as a valued veteran. McLeod Bethel-Thompson wants to show Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo what kind of game he has. The draft? The Eagles are going to keep their options open. Isn't that what makes sense? If there is a quarterback on the board who the Eagles love, who the coaches think has a huge upside no matter the round, why wouldn't they take him? If there is a player, any player, the Eagles love on the board when they draft, they need to make it an easy decision.
The goal, again, is to find the franchise quarterback, as McNabb was for many of his seasons in Philadelphia when he led the Eagles to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl appearance. Even then, he needed help, and the correct advanced planning helped the Eagles in, we all remember, 2002 when Koy Detmer and then A.J. Feeley came on in relief of an injured McNabb and helped the Eagles clinch the top seed in the NFC playoffs and homefield advantage on the way to the conference title game, and then again in 2006 when Jeff Garcia stepped in for a sidelined McNabb and got hot as the Eagles reached the postseason and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
You need more than one. Sometimes, you need more than two. Ideally, you are overflowing with great quarterbacks.
Look around the league and see what some teams have done. Green Bay had Brett Favre still playing great football when it drafted Aaron Rodgers in the first round. Seattle spent lavishly on Matt Flynn, sifted through a handful of other veterans and still used a third-round pick on Russell Wilson, who became the franchise savior the Seahawks needed. Indianapolis let Peyton Manning go when it had a chance to take Andrew Luck with a first-overall draft pick.
You need to find the right quarterback. The franchise guy. And it's really, really hard to do. The Eagles are making the position a top priority, hoping to get it right with Bradford, or Daniel, or whomever else they decide to add. Competition is a good thing at every position, particularly one that is so vital to the success, as history has proven, of an NFL team.