KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Quarterback Chad Henne comes to the Kansas City with no preconceived notions of a quarterback controversy or an opportunity to start. The 32-year-old journeyman understands his success hinges on his ability to help Patrick Mahomes succeed.
“Absolutely,” Henne said when asked about serving as a mentor for Mahomes. “I think obviously they’ll have stuff set in stone but in everything they need that they can’t be there with us, more than happy to help and make sure Patrick is ready to go and the most prepared quarterback in the league.”
Henne honed that skill during his last six seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars while grooming young quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Blaine Gabbert. Working with a talent such as Mahomes as well as head coach Andy Reid attracted Henne to the Chiefs.
“Seems like every quarterback that he gets a hold of seems to be pretty successful and really just kind of opened my eyes and really wanted to get a chance to work with him,” Henne said.
Henne met Mahomes briefly last season when the young quarterback visited Jacksonville ahead of the NFL draft.
“I texted him as soon as I signed and just said glad to be with the Chiefs and looking forward to working with you,” Henne said.
General manager Brett Veach said last week pairing a veteran quarterback with Mahomes ranked as a top priority.
“That’s extremely important and we’ve always had that here,” Veach said.
Henne checks many boxes for exactly the type of quarterback the Chiefs wanted to back up Mahomes. Alex Smith spent last season showing Mahomes the ropes for how to prepare as an NFL starter. Now Henne adds the experience of a 10-year veteran with 53 starts under his belt to support Mahomes on and off the field.
Henne believes he can serve as a “secondary coach” for Mahomes, helping with preparation and providing a sounding board in the quarterback room.
“Just kind of the routine, seeing what I see on the field, teaching them protections if they need help with that and just go over the game plan with them and spend a lot of time with them, make sure they’re prepared for each and every Sunday,” Henne said of how he worked with Bortles and Gabbert in Jacksonville.
Henne brings another bonus with his experience in the West Coast offense. He spent the last four seasons in Jacksonville’s version of the West Coast system, including the last two under offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. The coach graduated from Blue Valley Northwest High School while his father Paul served as offensive coordinator for the Chiefs under Marty Schottenheimer for five seasons.
“Obviously everybody has different words and terminology but I feel like in that system I have the rhythms down, the throws down and really can exploit that system very well,” Henne said.
The veteran signal caller, however, lacks on the field experience in recent seasons. He threw just two regular-season passes over the last three years. His last start came in week three of the 2014 season.
Henne, however, says he feel more mature, smarter and healthier than at any point in his career.
“Body wise physically, I feel better than ever,” Henne said. “I feel better than I was when I was 22. My diet’s good, I feel stronger than I was, my arm’s still live. I feel like I’m ready to go if my number’s called in that way.”
But Henne still knows his biggest asset to the Chiefs lies with the wisdom he can pass to Mahomes. Helping Bortles navigate the ups and downs in Jacksonville, Henne believes he learned lessons he can pass along.
“You get too much credit or you get too little credit (as quarterback),” Henne said. “But one thing that was good about Blake — we kind of kept in our room that it was easy going — but he just let everything go over his head and brushed it off his shoulders, didn’t really pay attention to it and just really cared about what his teammates thought.”
Mahomes expects a bright spotlight in Kansas City, and Henne plans to remind Mahomes to block out the noise and focus on his teammates and the people closes to him.
“I think that’s the biggest thing is to really revolve yourself around a good status with friends and family,” Henne explained. “But also remember you’re there to please yourself first of all but second and most important is your teammates and your coaches. Don’t worry about the external factors and really just go about your game pleasing the people around you.”