As inevitably happens when a sports team fails to achieve the lofty expectations precipitated by one season of unexpected success, fans begin to sit around and ask questions.
Years of mediocrity and futility are somehow erased from minds still star-struck from the rapid rise of the Missouri Tigers to national title contention last year.
The announcers for Fox Sports Net noted time and time again during their coverage of last week's win against Kansas State that a sense of loyalty has been built on this campus and in this state that hasn't existed for a long time.
Sure in the lean years people showed up, and the stadium was filled, but on an unseasonably cold Saturday night in November, against a very overmatched non-rival opponent, Memorial Stadium was packed and roaring in support of their Tigers. This is a very different fan base.
Just like every other football franchise in the history of the universe, the fixation of Missouri fans is focused on their fearless leader, the quarterback. But fans have recently begun to include Chase Daniel in their questions about the team.
Some of this stems from his uncharacteristic interceptions and inability at times to make the big plays in the big games this year, but the quarterback will almost always be the first to take heat for the team. Daniel has been the first to heap the blame on himself after what he believes to be a poor performance.
So for those of you sitting out there chewing over doubts and questions about the Tigers, here's something to try to fit in your mouth along with the undersized defensive line, slow defensive backs and, naturally, questionable coaching decisions: What if Missouri had someone besides Chase Daniel lining up behind center?
Wouldn't it be great if we could have an Adonis-like Tim Tebow or a cool gunslinger like Colt McCoy, players who have kept their teams in contention for the national title this year, instead of our own undersized Daniel?
Answer? Sure. Who hasn't created an all-star team in a video game? The problem is it wouldn't be the Missouri football team we've come to love over the last four years.
A football program like Missouri's, born from the genius of a coach who can't help crying on senior night, doesn't attract players like Tebow or McCoy for a reason. Success for teams like Missouri's is born from emotion and craft, not from talent and big biceps.
Tebow and McCoy are great players, don't get me wrong. Both rank near the top in quarterback rating (don't forget Daniel is way up there, too, four slots above Tebow) and both are dynamic leaders and point producers.
Neither would connect with this team in the same way Daniel does. They wouldn't be lovable when they do a little hop into the air punctuated with a fist pump. They wouldn't mesh with a player like Tommy Saunders, a six-foot walk-on who has become a go-to guy for Daniel on third and 10.
We already have plenty of star power on this Missouri team. Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, William Moore, and Ziggy Hood are all fantastically talented, faster than speeding bullets and able to take a receiver's head off coming across the middle.
In the middle of all this pizzazz, Chase Daniel has been the heart and soul of this team. You can have arms like the Hulk, legs like the Flash and be able to beam lasers from your eyes like Superman, but if you don't have that superhero heart directing everything, you're going to be up a very swift creek without a paddle when the supervillian comes to town.
We don't want Tebow or McCoy here at Missouri.
We want Chase Daniel, a quarterback who grew up with this program and had to shield his eyes from the sudden spotlight along with the rest of us.
We want the quarterback who wore Aaron O'Neal's number in the biggest home game of the season.
We want the player who makes us smile when he throws for a touchdown, not because it's good for the team, but because we're proud of him. We're excited to see him be the one to succeed for us.
Chase Daniel might not be the flashiest passer or the fastest runner, but he's ours, and this four-year joyride just wouldn't have been the same without him.