When Chase Daniel arrived at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday, his first full day as the Eagles' backup quarterback, his new head coach and old friend Doug Pederson took him on a tour of the facility. The tour lasted 45 minutes, because when Daniel and Pederson get to talking about football or their families or pretty much anything, they find it hard to stop.
"We have a very special relationship," Daniel said.
That relationship developed over their three years together with the Kansas City Chiefs - Pederson as the offensive coordinator under Andy Reid, Daniel as the No. 2 quarterback behind Alex Smith. And it was the primary reason that the Eagles and Daniel agreed Wednesday to a three-year contract that could be worth up to $21 million. In a market in which the demand for quarterbacks is so high that Daniel, whose entire NFL career comprises two starts and 77 pass attempts, had offers to be a starter, the Eagles were willing to guarantee him $12 million for Daniel's particular set of skills. The promise is that he will provide healthy competition for Sam Bradford and a facile football mind to help Bradford master Pederson's offensive system, and that promise is based on Daniel's friendship with Pederson, on their mutual respect and implicit trust.
"The one thing that I see, and obviously what most people don't see, is the chance that I had to work with him for three years," Pederson said. "I see the leadership ability that he has on and off the football field. I see how well he interacts with the football players. I see what he's done."
More than that, Pederson sees who Daniel is, the way Daniel's NFL career has been a mirror image of his own. Pederson spent 10 years in the league and started just 17 games, but the exposure he had to excellent coaching and quarterback play increased his knowledge and expanded his thinking about the sport. He played under Don Shula, Mike Holmgren, and Andy Reid. He backed up Dan Marino and Brett Favre.
Daniel, who turns 30 in October, has spent eight years in the league, playing under Sean Payton and Reid, backing up Drew Brees. Those experiences were fodder for some of their longest, deepest conversations about football, Daniel said, about the value of learning from those who have come before you and excelled in what they've done.
During his three seasons with the New Orleans Saints, for instance, Daniel studied Brees' subtle movements whenever Brees dropped back to pass. Daniel and Brees are both listed as 6 feet tall, short for a quarterback, so Daniel paid special attention to how Brees created throwing lanes for himself.
"I've never been around anyone or seen anyone in the NFL who has as good a pocket awareness as Drew," Daniel said. "Even if it's a little bit of slide in the pocket, just that positional awareness is unbelievable. That's what makes him Drew Brees. I think I took that away from him a lot."
And it was an easy discussion topic between him and Pederson once they joined the Chiefs in 2013.
"We clicked from day one, just that connection in general, and just how easygoing he is, man," Daniel said. "He's a pleasure to be around. He's truly a players' coach."
Because Pederson and Daniel are so close, there are already murmurs around the Eagles that a quarterback controversy will soon develop, that Pederson wouldn't have brought Daniel here if deep down he didn't want Daniel to wrest the starting job from Bradford. Pederson and Howie Roseman, the Eagles' vice president of football operations, went to great lengths Thursday to dispel that notion.
"Sam is our No. 1," Pederson said, and Daniel himself noted that, every day during his time in New Orleans, he told Brees he was doing everything he could to usurp him as the Saints starter. Those warnings didn't stop him and Brees from becoming friends, and Daniel never started a game for the Saints. That wasn't the point. Pushing Brees was.
"I've been here maybe 36 hours in Philadelphia - you're not going to just walk into this new organization and say, 'I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that. I expect to be the starter. I expect to do this,' " Daniel said. "You have to show how hard you work to your teammates. That's the No. 1 thing to me, is how my teammates perceive me and that they know I'm a hard worker, that I'm a great leader, and I promise you I'm going to lead you to the right places. I've been there. I've done it. . . .
"I joke about it with Doug all the time, and he tells me all the time, 'You're like a second coach out there, man. You have it down. You know exactly what I'm thinking when I'm thinking it.' That's what I'm looking forward to, is coaching it."
It was easy to picture his telling Pederson the same thing during one of their talks - that Chase Daniel would like to coach someday, too, that the path Doug Pederson had taken was one he'd like to pursue himself. It was easy to picture the moment between them, one of those proud and profound recognitions in everyday life, when you look at a mentor or a friend and see the person you once were, or would like to be.