Chad Henne’s NFL career was mostly unremarkable. But this hasn’t stopped him from making millions of dollars in the league. He’s even done so while not playing any football. In the 2016-17 season, Henne managed to earn a “performance bonus” even though he spent as little time on the field as possible.
Chad Henne was an excellent college quarterback
Chad Henne’s college career was superlative, but it promised more. He attended the University of Michigan as a highly-prized Pennsylvania recruit. Injuries to other quarterbacks gave him the chance to become the second true freshman to start on opening day for the Wolverines. Luck gave him the starting job; his talent kept him there. Henne started all 12 games for Michigan. He tied the school record for most touchdowns (25) in a season and leading the team to a 9-2 record.
The following three years were filled with ups and downs, both for Henne and Michigan’s team as a whole. The team was good each season, but they never won the Big Ten Conference and only won one bowl game during that time span. Most frustratingly for the school, they failed to win a single game against Ohio State in those four years.
Still, Henne’s statistics mostly mark him out as one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the university. He did set the school record for most interceptions with 37, but he also did the same for completed passes (828), passing yards (9,715), and touchdowns (87). Henne did enough to interest the NFL as a potential professional.
Henne’s talent didn’t translate to the pro game
Henne was drafted in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft by Miami. He quickly became one of many Dolphins players who failed to pull the team out of mediocrity. Henne was only with the team for four years. During the two seasons where he was the starting quarterback, he twice threw more interceptions than touchdowns.
The team around him didn’t help — he was sacked 67 times during his time with the team. But he also wasn’t good enough to lift the players above their station. After missing much of the 2011 season due to shoulder surgery, Henne was released by Miami.
Then, the QB signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a backup to future bust Blaine Gabbert. Henne did make his way into the history books in Week 11 of the 2012 season. He joined Steve Young as one of the two players since the merger to throw four touchdowns without an interception in a game where they did not start.
That game was as good as it got for Henne in Jacksonville. He started 13 games in 2013, and managed to throw more interceptions than touchdowns yet again. He kept the job in 2014 for three games before being replaced by a rookie Blake Bortles. Henne hasn’t started a game since, but he’s still making plenty of money in the NFL.
Henne is still stacking money despite not playing at all
Being a quarterback, regardless of your skills, can be a highly lucrative position. Good QBs are too valuable and rare to let one go if there’s even a glimpse of being a solid starter. Henne’s taken advantage of this reality to make over $33 million in his career, according to Spotrac. An incident at the end of the 2016-17 season showed how easy it can be for quarterbacks to make extra cash.
Performance bonuses are written into the contracts of almost every player in the NFL. The bonuses are the most useful for underpaid players on rookies still on their first deal. One player they’re not important for is the backup quarterback. If the starter plays up to standard or never gets hurt, then there’s little chance for the reserve to make his mark. Henne got on the field for exactly one snap that season. But that one snap ended up being worth $35.28, according to The Comeback. You can get a decent meal at a casual restaurant with that money!
Henne’s been shrewd enough to continue to accrue money from the NFL despite never seeing the field. He’s received over $6 million from the Kansas City Chiefs over the past two years as one of the backups to Patrick Mahomes. At age 34, he probably has a few years left to stay on the payroll without ever being expected to play. What a life.