Sielski: In praise of Chase Daniel, kind of

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Eagles quarterback Chase Daniel during practice May 31, 2016.

Before he fades completely from our collective consciousness, let us toast Chase Daniel, the shrewdest athlete in Philadelphia history. What other player proved so irrelevant after persuading a franchise that he was so indispensable? Who has received more money, more praise, more lip service to his value for having done so little?

The Daniel Era here ended Monday, when the Eagles released him 12 months after signing him to a three-year contract that guaranteed him $12 million (depending on the offset language in the deal) and could have paid him up to $21 million over its duration. It was a wild time. The Eagles already had signed Sam Bradford to a two-year contract. Then they signed Daniel. Then they made two big trades to move up in the draft to get Carson Wentz. It was almost as if they didn't have a clear, well-thought-out plan last offseason for how to address the most important position in football. But, hey, if Wentz turns out to be the superstar that the Eagles believe him - and need him - to be, then they'll benefit from their own confusion. They just may not benefit as much as Daniel, and that's what's so damn marvelous about what he did.

Think about it. It's natural to compare Daniel's tenure to other ballyhooed acquisitions by the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers that didn't pan out, to player investments that in the end offered little or no return. Freddy Garcia started 11 games for the Phils and won once. Danny Tartabull had all of seven at-bats for them. Jeff Ruland had bad knees. Andrew Bynum bowled. Chris Gratton and Vinny Lecavalier vanished. And even if Nnamdi Asomugha wasn't much of a cornerback for the Eagles, he was if nothing else innovative, converting the NovaCare Complex parking lot into a drive-in eatery every day at lunchtime.

But those busts had something in common: All of them had been relatively accomplished pro athletes before they arrived in Philadelphia. They were good players once, which means there was at least some reason to think they would be good players here.

In that regard, Daniel stands alone. He had no such history, which made his ability to extract such a lucrative contract from the Eagles all the more astonishing. He had been the Kansas City Chiefs' backup quarterback for three years. There, he had formed a bond with Doug Pederson, and that bond proved so strong that, when the Eagles made Pederson their head coach and gave him the choice of one expensive toy in the entire store, he picked Daniel. Even with Bradford already in the fold and telling anyone who would listen that he wanted to stay with the Eagles, they signed Daniel under the guise of creating competition for the starting quarterback job.

Given what the Chiefs' quarterback situation had been, this was a particularly curious context to establish. Pederson and Andy Reid had Daniel on their roster for three years. They could have made him a starter anytime they wanted. Instead, they decided to trade for and start another quarterback, and the gap between that quarterback and Daniel was so great that over those three years, Daniel started two games and threw 68 passes.

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That quarterback was Alex Smith: an above-average player who has obvious limitations but who, if surrounded by enough talent, can help his team win games. That description pretty much applies to Bradford, too. Yet somehow, Daniel convinced Pederson - and, in turn, Roseman - that he deserved to be the highest-paid backup quarterback in the NFL. Those are some mad rhetorical skills, right there.

After the Eagles drafted Wentz, Daniel's presence appeared even more superfluous, his contract an expenditure that appeared even lavisher. To watch practice during mini-camps, training camp, and the preseason was to see that Daniel was the third-best quarterback on the team, by a lot. His knowledge of Pederson's offense couldn't make up for his lack of size, instincts, and arm strength relative to Bradford's and Wentz's. But once the Eagles traded Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings, well, surely then Daniel's true importance would be revealed. He would be for Wentz what Pederson had been for Donovan McNabb: the placeholder, the model, the mentor. One day in the locker room, someone referred to Daniel as a "guru," and Daniel smiled with satisfaction. "I like the word guru, " he said. "I'm going to start calling myself that."

Except Wentz didn't need a placeholder, let alone a guru. Or, if he did, it didn't have to be Daniel. Wentz played 16 games and threw 607 passes. Daniel played six snaps and threw one pass. And in the Eagles' minds, the value of whatever additional advice or guidance Daniel might lend him either had an expiration date or had depreciated like a used car's.

"Having someone in the room to rely on and to talk to about things is important," Roseman said last week, before the team released Daniel. "It's important for a starting quarterback to have. Does it change from year one to year two? When you talk about Carson, he's the guy now, and having the ability to do that through the mini-camps, through the whole offseason, through training camp, his leadership is going to show, and he's been through it. He's gone to Seattle, he's gone to Dallas, Washington, New York, so he's seen all those things, so he has that. But you still want someone who's been through it, and Chase certainly provides that."

So, apparently, does Nick Foles, and he will come a little cheaper - even with that magical and anomalous 27-touchdown, two-interception season on his resumé. So yes, let us raise our glasses in admiration. Remember: This isn't about whether the Eagles are just making things up as they go along when it comes to their roster and their future. This isn't about whether they know what they're doing. This is about Chase Daniel, who clearly does.

msielski@phillynews.com

@MikeSielski