This time a year ago, the Chiefs’ quarterback room included two players entering their fifth season with the team. Alex Smith and Tyler Bray had full grasp of the offense, understood the language of the playbook and provided plenty of mentoring to then-rookie Patrick Mahomes.
This summer, that one season Mahomes spent as an understudy is the only year of Chiefs experience for any of the team’s current four quarterbacks.
But Andy Reid said he’s comfortable with his lineup of Mahomes, Chad Henne, Matt McGloin and Chase Litton. It helps that Henne and McGloin bring a combined 13 years of NFL experience to camp.
“Two veteran players that have been in similar offenses that are sharp guys and true professionals,” Reid said. “And Chase is coming in, doing good things.”
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Henne, who had spent the previous five seasons in Jacksonville, signed a two-year deal with the Chiefs in March. He counts Eric Bieniemy as his sixth offensive coordinator.
Kansas City is where Henne wanted to be, in a Reid-crafted attack that feels similar to his previous experiences.
“The terminology is very similar,” Henne said. “It’s a lot of fun to be in. (Reid) has a bright mind. He is always trying to think of stuff in order to get playmakers involved.”
Henne has been a primary starter in three of his NFL years after a college career at Michigan that produced an All-Big Ten season as a senior.
He was drafted by the Dolphins in the second round of 2008 — the fourth quarterback selected in that draft behind Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Brian Brohm. Henne became a starter at Miami in 2009 when Chad Pennington suffered a season-ending injury.
In 2010, Henne set career highs in starts (14), touchdowns (15) and interceptions (19). Two years later, he signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Jaguars, where he started 19 games over the next two seasons. He eventually became the backup to Blake Bortles.
That puts Henne is the unique position as an up-close observer to a pair of young guns: Bortles and Mahomes.
“They’re young talented guys, both mobile, strong arms,” Henne said. “Pat probably has one of the strongest arms I’ve been around. He can make every throw, that’s for sure.”
Henne likened Mahomes’ arm strength to players like Flacco and Ryan Mallett, his Michigan teammate for a season. Both stand 6-6, quarterbacks in tight end bodies. Mahomes is listed at 6-3.
“Those big guys could really hose it in there, but for Pat’s size, I haven’t seen anything like it,” Henne said. “It’s a lot of fun to be around.”
The Chiefs’ backup quarterback has been mostly game-day lonely during the Reid and Alex Smith era. Smith missed a total of four starts, two because of injury or illness. The Chiefs won three of those games, including the Mahomes victory at Denver in last year’s regular-season finale.
Henne will be ready when called upon.
“I like the way he goes about his business,” Reid said. “He’s been in this role as a backup the last few years. He also been the starter and been counted on. So he’s got good balance and a feel for both of those things.”