By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Eighteen months ago, Colt Brennan and Chase Daniel shared a stage in New York City during college football's Heisman Trophy presentation. Brennan had just completed one of the most prolific quarterbacking careers in division I history. Daniel was in the process of doing the same. They finished third and fourth, respectively, in the voting, then continued their night together, going out to a Manhattan club with several of Brennan's friends.
"We ended up just having a blast the whole night," Brennan said this week.
Now, having shredded the record books and earned near-constant attention at their schools -- Brennan at Hawaii and Daniel at Missouri -- the two are teammates with the Redskins, fighting for reps during the organized team activities that continued yesterday.
Brennan, a sixth-round pick in the 2008 draft, was the team's third-string quarterback last season but was inactive in every game. Daniel signed as a free agent this spring after going undrafted; Redskins Coach Jim Zorn told him Monday that Daniel's first priority was to soak everything up, and that he would only gradually be worked into the practice mix.
In college, they combined to pass for more than 26,000 yards and 232 touchdowns, collegiate numbers that dwarf those of the Redskins' top two quarterbacks, Jason Campbell and Todd Collins. In the NFL, both have been forced to fight for a job.
"We barely made it here, huh?" Brennan joked. "I was such a late draft pick, he was a free agent. You'd think for two guys that had that kind of success . . . but that's just football."
Both were mega-celebrities in college. Brennan, who led Hawaii to a BCS bowl in 2007, said he often didn't eat his first meal until 2 p.m. because of practice, media and autograph commitments. Daniel, who led the Tigers to a No. 1 ranking the same year, said he "can't go around Missouri anywhere and not get noticed."
"I'm just getting to do my own thing, don't have to worry as much about media requests as I used to, and getting hounded, and expecting to go out there and throw for 500 yards every game," he said of his transition to the NFL. "I don't have to worry about all the pressure; just go out there and compete."
Both said their draft status was hurt by factors outside their control, including their size and the supposed pinball offenses their colleges used. Brennan was battling a torn labrum in his hip before the '08 draft, and Daniel was held back by his 6-foot frame, neither of which dissuaded the Redskins.
"They were two of the best quarterbacks in college football history," said Redskins offensive assistant Chris Meidt, who works with the team's quarterbacks. "You're dealing with guys who know how to play the game. Colt is awesome -- everyone saw him in preseason last year, Colt can really play the game. His fundamentals aren't always where you'd like, so at least for him, we know what we have to work on. But he's getting better; if you watch him and his fundamentals, he's improving dramatically. So with him it's a defined set that we have to improve on, because we know he can play the game.
"Chase is really the same deal. He can play the game. It's not a question of, 'Hey man, when the bullets are flying, do they have what it takes?' We know they both do. It's a matter of can they mechanically be good enough to execute our system."
That question likely won't be decided until August, when Brennan and Daniel could theoretically be competing for the same roster spot. Meantime, they've continued a friendship that started the summer before that Heisman ceremony, when they played basketball together while working as counselors at an elite summer camp.
Their families are friendly from the time spent in New York, and Brennan took Daniel out to dinner his first night in Ashburn, has driven him to the airport and offered advice on transitioning to the NFL.
"He's a good friend," Daniel said, "and he's helped me out a lot."
"Oh, I was stoked," Brennan said, of his reaction to Daniel's signing. "I knew Chase was a good guy, and that's all that matters. I've been around football long enough to know that it's a game, it's a competition, but the best thing you can ask for is a good guy. That makes for healthy competition. That's what it's all about."
The Redskins are the only NFL team with two players who have been Heisman finalists over the past five years. Brennan led the nation in total offense during that '07 season, and Daniel was fifth. Both set career marks for touchdown passes at their schools.
"I think we're definitely similar in that we're trying to beat these stereotypes," Brennan said. "Because we came from successful offenses and had great numbers in college, that doesn't mean that we can't play in the league."
Redskins Note: The Redskins recently restructured the contract of top wide receiver Santana Moss, according to multiple league sources.
Moss's new deal basically offset the $6 million-plus salary cap hit incurred by Washington, which does not comment on contracts, when it released longtime right tackle Jon Jansen last week. The team reworked Moss's contract weeks before they cut Jansen, both sources said. The Redskins have $6 million in cap room, one source said.