If you watched the AFC divisional round matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars, you saw Patrick Mahomes get hurt on a play in the first half. Mahomes, who suffered a high-ankle sprain, eventually returned to the field. But shortly after the injury, he was forced out of the game as the Chiefs' medical staff tended to the injury. When that happened, Kansas City was facing a long field, starting a drive from their own 2-yard line.
With backup Chad Henne coming into the game, most Chiefs fans were simply hoping for a first down or two to change field position. They probably didn't expect Henne to calmly lead a 98-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs went up 17-7 and ultimately won 27-20, making Henne's drive even more critical.
This was actually Henne's second big moment with the Chiefs as a backup. In January 2021, Mahomes left in the third quarter with a concussion. Henne came into the game in relief. Despite throwing an interception, he had a key 12-yard run late in the fourth quarter, turning third and long into fourth and inches, which he then converted on a pass to Tyreek Hill.
Henne is 37 years old and playing in his 15th NFL season. He hasn't been a regular NFL starter for nearly a decade, yet he's amassed more than $38.6 million over his career. Here's how he's made it happen.
Henne played at the University of Michigan and is one of just two quarterbacks in program history to start as a freshman. He ultimately started 45 of 47 collegiate games, racking up nearly 10,000 passing yards over four years. The Miami Dolphins drafted him in the second round with the 57th pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. Three other quarterbacks—Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Brian Brohm—were selected before him. Henne signed a four-year, $3.5 million deal with the Dolphins.
Henne's first season was spent largely as a backup to Chad Pennington; Henne played in only three games and threw 12 passes. The following season, Pennington got injured in Week 3, and Henne took over as the starter. He remained the starter in both 2010 and 2011, though the latter season only lasted four games before a shoulder injury put Henne on injured reserve.
Henne's Miami tenure had some strong flashes but was fairly inconsistent. He finished with a 13-18 record, 7,114 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, and 37 interceptions. The Dolphins decided not to re-sign him, so he went up the state to join the Jacksonville Jaguars. Henne signed a two-year, $6.75 million contract with Jacksonville to serve as their backup quarterback.
Yet thanks to an injury to starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Henne started six games during the 2012 season. The following year, Gabbert was benched for poor play, so Henne started 13 games (appearing in 15). The Jaguars weren't winning a ton, though the team was impressed enough by Henne's work that it named him the starter for 2014. He also received a two-year, $8 million contract extension.
Jacksonville's decision lasted for 10 quarters. Henne struggled to start the season, and after a rough half in the Jaguars' Week 3 game, they turned to rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. Henne never re-gained the starting gig, and that 2014 season was the last time he came into the season as a starting quarterback.
However, Henne has continued to sign deals that pay him comfortably without having to see much action on the field. The Jaguars gave Henne another $8 million in 2016. He joined the Chiefs in 2018 on a two-year, $6.7 million deal and re-signed for another two years and $3.25 million in 2020. His current deal is for one season and $2 million, though after his postseason play, the Chiefs will likely keep him around for longer.
Since he was benched in Week 3 of the 2014 season, Henne has played in 14 regular season games and 2 playoff games. He's started exactly one of those, a loss during the final game of the 2020 season when the Chiefs had already secured the top spot in the AFC.
Even including that one start, Henne has gone 52 for 76 for 448 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception in all of those games. Some of his appearances mainly required him to kneel down at the end of victories. He didn't play at all in two of those seasons, and he's thrown an average of 9.5 passes per year.
All while racking up nearly $40 million in career earnings? Life as an NFL backup quarterback isn't bad at all.