PHOENIX (AP) — If all goes according to plan Sunday, the only time football fans will see Kansas City’s Chad Henne or Philadelphia’s Gardner Minshew during the Super Bowl will be on the sideline, holding a clipboard, talking on a headset or offering encouragement to teammates.
But this is the NFL. Sometimes — actually, lots of times — things don’t go according to plan.
That’s why the backup quarterbacks for the Chiefs and Eagles could be some of the most important players on their team’s roster heading into Sunday’s showdown at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
“You put your ego aside,” Henne said. “Every time you walk into the room, even though you want to be the starter, you’ve got to understand your role. There’s only 32 starting quarterbacks in the league and they’re pretty darn good.
“If you can be the next guy in line, that’s pretty good, too.”
In a lot of ways, it’s been the year of the backup quarterback. A total of 68 QBs started at least one game during the regular season, an average of more than two per team and a record for a non-strike year. Thirteen teams needed three quarterbacks.
Then there were the poor Arizona Cardinals, who cycled through four QBs in four weeks.
The 37-year-old Henne has been in the NFL since 2008 and was a starter at various points earlier in his career with the Dolphins and Jaguars. He’s been the Chiefs backup for the past five seasons, starting just once since 2014.
Henne has already proven his worth in this year’s playoffs. Kansas City starter Patrick Mahomes left the team’s AFC divisional round game against the Jaguars with an ankle injury in the second quarter and Henne entered, completing 5 of 7 passes during a 98-yard touchdown drive.
Mahomes returned after halftime, but those seven points proved crucial. The Chiefs edged the Jags 27-20.
“To come in a hostile game, backed up to your 2, go 98 yards — that just shows the type of competitor he is,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said.
It wasn’t the first time Henne has saved a Kansas City season. In another divisional game two years ago, Mahomes was forced into the concussion protocol and Henne guided the Chiefs through the second half of a 22-17 win over the Browns.
Henne joked that he wished Mahomes would give him more opportunities to shine, but even if he never touches the field in a meaningful fashion this Sunday, he’ll be ready.
“You just go about it like a regular week,” Henne said. “You prepare like you’re the starter. If you do that, you set yourself up for success on Sunday.”
Minshew is in his fourth season in the NFL out of Washington State. The 26-year-old first gained fame for his signature mustache while leading the Jacksonville Jaguars to some surprising wins in 2019.
He’s been the Eagles’ backup for the past two seasons.
Minshew started two games late this season when starter Jalen Hurts was dealing with a throwing shoulder injury. The Eagles lost both contests, but Minshew was productive, throwing for 355 yards against the Cowboys and 274 yards against the Saints.
“He’s played a lot of good football and you want that experience that he has,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “He’s given us some good minutes, some good time. He got to start two games this year and played really well in the Dallas game.”
Sirianni said Minshew’s resume with the Jaguars was a big reason the team pursued him a few years ago. He was 6-6 as a starter during that 2019 season, throwing for 21 touchdowns and six interceptions.
“That’s why we wanted him here with us,” the coach said. “We know how valuable he can be.”