Hostetler took over for the New York Giants in 1990 when Phil Simms was hurt late in the season and the team won the Super Bowl. Morrall held the 1972 Miami Dolphins together during their fabled perfect championship season until Bob Griese recovered from injury to return for the Super Bowl. More recently, Foles replaced an injured Carson Wentz when the Eagles won Super Bowl LII.
Reich, a backup to the Buffalo Bills’ Jim Kelly for 10 seasons, delivered one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the NFL playoffs when he started in place of the injured Kelly. In that 1993 game, he threw a pick-six early in the third quarter against the Houston Oilers, then passed for four touchdowns in a seven-minute span and led the game-winning touchdown drive in overtime as the Bills rallied from a 32-point deficit. Reich led the Bills to another victory the following week, but Kelly returned for the AFC championship game and Super Bowl.
Reich “didn’t have the strongest arm,” Thurman Thomas, the Bills’ Hall of Fame running back, told the Associated Press before the team Reich now coaches, the Indianapolis Colts, lost to the Bills on Jan. 9. “He wasn’t quick-footed, but the guy knew where to deliver the football and I think that was very evident in the second half of the comeback against the Oilers.”
One other trait shared by Reich and other backups is a different kind of situational awareness, knowing their position is impermanent. Henne was last week’s hero, but he’s likely to be back on the sideline during Sunday’s AFC championship game if Mahomes, who also hurt his foot last week, completes the NFL’s concussion protocol.
That doesn’t diminish his accomplishment, though. He turned out to be no mere place holder, relegated to just “do no harm.” Henne executed perhaps the most surprising play call of the postseason so far when he hit Tyreek Hill on fourth and inches at the 50 with a little more than a minute left in last weekend’s game. The Chiefs led 22-17, but that was plenty of time for Baker Mayfield to work his magic.
The call was straight out of the mad-scientist mind of Coach Andy Reid, but it was up to Henne to make it work. Henne prefaced that play with a key 13-yard scramble on third and 14, remarkable because he has never been a speed demon. Like others, Henne became the improbable hero of the day, even if he was among the last to comprehend what he had done because he isn’t really into social media.
“Other than LinkedIn, I don’t think #HenneGivenSunday or #HenneThingIsPossible is going to show up on LinkedIn,” Henne cracked.
When Henne, 35, started the Chiefs’ regular season finale while Mahomes rested, it was his first start since the 2014 season with Jacksonville. He has an 18-36 career record as a starter, and has appeared in 71 regular season games overall with 60 touchdowns and 63 interceptions. The Michigan alum was drafted by Miami in the second round (57th overall pick) of the 2008 NFL draft. He spent four seasons with the Dolphins, then five with the Jaguars. Henne joined the Chiefs in 2018, but missed the 2019 season after breaking his ankle in preseason.
As for the gutsy pass to Hill, Henne explained that “we talked about the play Saturday night; Patrick, the coaching staff and I go over the plays that we like, and when I came over to the sideline, it was one of the plays that we picked. We felt confident in that play; one-on-one matchup with Tyreek Hill? Majority of the time, he’s going to win. He did a great route, and I just put the ball where it needed to be.”
And if he has to replace Mahomes again?
“I’m always a competitor,” Henne said this week. “Throughout the years — if it went my way or it didn’t go my way — I just felt like I loved the game still, loved being around the locker room. Especially coming here; it just enlightened me. Coach Reid and his staff and the players here just brought out a lot of me. Especially Patrick — to see all his success, and he’s helped me out more than I feel like I’ve helped him. It’s just a pleasure to be here, and this is why I play. I prepare each and every week to go out there and be the best me, and just have fun with the guys.”