Chiefs have full confidence in Chad Henne if Patrick Mahomes can’t play

The Kansas City Chiefs don’t yet know if starting QB Patrick Mahomes will clear the NFL’s concussion protocol and be available to play against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC title game. There’s hope that he’ll be able to play, but he’ll need to pass through the NFL’s return-to-participation protocols first, with no guarantee that he’ll be cleared by an independent neurologist prior to gameday.

If Mahomes is unable to play, the Chiefs would rely on backup quarterback Chad Henne to start in his absence. He filled in for Mahomes this past Sunday and started against the Chargers in Week 17. The coaching staff in Kansas City has since expressed complete confidence that Henne can get the job done in place of Mahomes if necessary.

“Listen all the guys have confidence in Chad (Henne),” Chiefs HC Andy Reid said on Monday. “I mean if he has to be in there, just like they did Matt (Moore) the year before, it’s the way those guys handle themselves. I don’t think that wouldn’t change if he has to play. I don’t think twice about that. If Pat can’t go, then Chad jumps in and rolls.”

Henne’s final sequence against the Cleveland Browns in the divisional round of the playoffs has already helped him achieve legend status among the Chiefs fanbase. His 12-yard run on third down and the gutsy play call on fourth-and-inches have the fanbase confident in his play.

“When you’re around him you just know,” Reid said following the game. “I’m glad he had an opportunity to play a week or two ago there, whenever our last game was, and get in. I think that helped him when he jumped in this time of just being comfortable with the speed of everything. Everybody has full confidence in him. I mean, you saw how the team reacted on that run. We thought we had it. I think his elbow was down, I think it was a good call—a close call, but a good call. And I thought it was a heck of a throw, the second play. We go through all of those Saturday night with the quarterbacks, those situations—fourth-and-one to win the game, what do you want? And that play happened to be there, and my coaches were on board.”

It’s not just because of Henne’s late-game heroics in the final sequence against the Browns that the Chiefs are confident in Henne, though. Reid and the players in the locker room have seen things from Henne that suggests he’s capable of leading this offense and winning football games.

“Hats off to Chad,” Chiefs DE Frank Clark said following Sunday’s win. “OG, Triple OG, like I said before, you know we go all the way back since the days when I wasn’t even at the University of Michigan, I was in high school — I probably wasn’t even in high school yet. I was probably in elementary still when Chad was throwing the ball at Michigan. But man, he came in and did what he had to do. Simply, just did his job.”

What fans don’t get to see from Henne on a regular basis is everything that he does behind-the-scenes to get ready to play any given week. He treats it as if it’s his first day on the job and he’s trying to make a good impression.

“Man, it’s just the work, people don’t see his work ethic,” Clark said. “That man right there, he works so hard. What is this year 14, year 15? Whatever it is who cares. He’s still out there making plays and doing his job. He’s putting his head down, that just shows what type of competitor he is. Like you said, you watch Pat (Mahomes) go down, you can hear the whole stadium gasp for air… When you’ve got a guy who is always prepared— a guy who does his job and takes it seriously, you know the results will show.”

Tyrann Mathieu has seen Henne’s work ethic firsthand and knows that he attacks every week as if he was going to be the starter.

“I talk to Chad, basically every morning,” Mathieu said. “We’re usually in there pretty early, so there’s nothing really to do but shoot it. He’s a really great guy. One of the things I’ve really noticed about him is he’s a true professional. He’s one of those guys that’s a true veteran, that’s always ready. You know if you’re able to watch this guy every single day, Monday through Saturday, he does the same routine as if he’s going to play that week. I think any backup or anybody should really adopt that philosophy. That at any given moment you need to be prepared to play. You need to be prepared to play at a rarely high level. So it was good to see Chad come out and make some plays.”

The team doesn’t just have full confidence in Henne’s preparation, they also trust his ability to execute the offense. If the Chiefs do need to rely on Henne on Sunday, they won’t need to change the scheme or move away from how they’d run the offense if Mahomes were playing the game.

“Yeah so when we were in the game, there wasn’t anything I had to stay away from on this gameplan,” Reid said. “When Chad was in there, I checked with EB (Eric Bieniemy) and Mike (Kafka) on it and they were comfortable. I checked with Chad on it and he said just call the play the way you had planned, so that’s how we went about it as we sat down there and gathered our information.”

Whoever the quarterback is when the Chiefs face the Bills, this team will rally around them as they pursue their second consecutive Lamar Hunt Trophy and Super Bowl appearance. If it happens to be Henne, the team won’t bat an eye.

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