“I’m ecstatic,’’ Daniel said.
Those aren’t hollow words. Daniel may or may not play well on Sunday when the Chiefs attempt to put themselves into the playoffs with a victory over the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.
But there’s not a quarterback around, starter or backup, who believes in himself more than Daniel. So despite being thrust into the starter’s role on Friday with news of a lacerated spleen for Alex Smith, there is no doubt in his own mind about how he will fare.
“I wouldn’t rather have it any other way than to be put into a situation with everything on the line,’’ he said. “I know the team believes in me and we’ll go out there and try to put drives together against a good San Diego defense.’’
They’re just words, of course. Daniel would undoubtedly be saying those or similar words publicly regardless of how he felt.
But his teammates describe Daniel as the most self-confident quarterback they’ve been around. That confidence rubs off on them.
“We believe we can win with him,’’ wide receiver Jason Avant said.
Again, those are words you’d hear publicly at this point no matter how the Chiefs truly felt about Daniel. But the Chiefs showed how they believed in Daniel in last year’s final regular-season game, also against the Chargers.
Because they had already clinched a wild-card spot, the Chiefs rested Smith, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Branden Albert and others. Daniel started and led the Chiefs, playing with a lineup full of backups against an opponent that needed a win to get into the playoffs, to what should have been a victory.
Kansas City missed a field goal in the final seconds of the fourth quarter that would have won the game. Instead, the Chargers won 27-24 in overtime.
So the Chiefs have reason to believe in him.
“You’re fortunate you have Chase here,’’ coach Andy Reid said. “The guys have a lot of trust in Chase.’’
Daniel is a career backup, having spent three seasons as Drew Brees’ understudy before he joined the Chiefs last year. He played for the Saints only in games that got out of hand.
The Chiefs overpaid to get him as Smith’s backup anyway, giving him a contract worth $10 million over three seasons.
The Chiefs obviously saw something in Daniel. Logic says his belief in himself was it.
He made the first start of his career last year against the Chargers and Daniel attacked it. The Chiefs scored two touchdowns in the first quarter. He was the quarterback on the last touchdown pass to a Chiefs wide receiver, a 2-yard throw to Dexter McCluster that day.
“I was excited,’’ Daniel said. “I wasn’t nervous.’’
Sunday’s game could be the last start of Daniel’s career. But you would have trouble convincing him of that regardless of how things go for him on Sunday.