ASHBURN, Va. — There he is, the latest craze among backup quarterbacks in D.C. Throw a couple of touchdown passes in a preseason game, and suddenly the fans are in love.
"I've got to throw for three next time, right?" Washington Redskins rookie Chase Daniel said with a smile Monday. "But that's how it is, especially here in the national capital."
Of course, a quick reality check shows Daniel won't be starting on opening day or anytime soon after that, but his performance in Saturday's 17-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers gave a significant boost to his employment prospects.
The undrafted ex-Heisman Trophy contender from Missouri entered training camp with long odds to make the Redskins roster. But coach Jim Zorn declared Monday that Daniel was now on solid footing in a battle for the third-string job.
"The competition right now is for the No. 3 spot," Zorn said. "And Chase is making a statement about that."
The new player on the bubble is second-year quarterback Colt Brennan, who was expected to challenge veteran Todd Collins for the No. 2 spot. Brennan was the star of last year's preseason, but he's already thrown two interceptions this August.
That's opened the door for Daniel, who had to overcome the disappointment of not being drafted in April and the persistent questions about his height — generously listed as 6 feet. He didn't play at all in the first preseason game, but went 6 for 8 for 58 yards with TDs to Marko Mitchell and Fred Davis against the Steelers. After the game, he received nearly 100 text messages and "was answering the phone all the way back home."
"That's exactly what I need to do is go out there and show them that I belong here and belong in this league," Daniel said. "I know it's just one game, but it was a good one game to get under my belt."
As he spoke, Daniel acknowledged his precarious place on the depth chart. If that two-touchdown show doesn't win him a place with the Redskins, he'll be sending the video to 31 other addresses.
"All I'm doing is trying to get a spot on this team or another team," Daniel said, "Any time you get on film, it's an audition for another team. Do I want to be here? Heck, yes. This is my first option. This is why I picked to come here, to learn under coach Zorn, but if things don't work out here, I'll have some film out there."
And when coaches are looking at that film, he hopes they don't dismiss him because of his height.
"It's the story of my life," Daniel said. "Everyone questions it, but you can't question my heart, you can't question my brains or my arm or my skill."
Zorn didn't want to venture a guess whether Daniel is really 6 feet tall. After all, there's not much the coach can do about it.
"It depends on whether you measure him with his socks on or off," Zorn said. "He's close. He would be mortified if we were talking about his height. I have never said anything about his height. I don't tell him to stand taller. He's only as high as he is. It's a God thing — you know what I mean? What I do is help him play ball and help him play at the right level, and it isn't 6 feet high."
The challenge got tougher for Daniel starting Monday. With training camp over, the Redskins are holding only one practice per day. As the lowest of four quarterbacks on the totem pole, he had to be content with maybe a half-dozen snaps during the 7-on-7 drills.
Zorn indicated that Brennan — but not Daniel — will play Friday night in the second half against the New England Patriots, then both will get a chance in the preseason finale a week later against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If Daniel wins the third-string job, what's next? A false Internet rumor linking him to Jessica Simpson? That's what happened with Brennan a couple of weeks ago.
"Hopefully not," Daniel said. "My girlfriend wouldn't like that very much."