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Greg Cote: A journeyman QB's rise to overnight sensation, 13 years later

Greg Cote: A journeyman QB's rise to overnight sensation, 13 years later

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MIAMI — Every once in awhile sports gives us — gifts us is more like it — a little story like this, unscripted, born of random circumstance.

So Chad Henne gets to be the overnight sensation, 13 years later.

"Who is Chad Henne?" read the headline Tuesday. "Five things to know about the AFC divisional round hero."

Miami and Dolphins fans know who Henne is, of course. Fins drafted him in the second round in 2008, and he played four nondescript seasons here. Miami declined to re-sign him.

But if was as if the rest of the football world had forgotten or never knew of him, until everything changed Sunday.

All-world quarterback Patrick Mahomes goes down from a hard hit and leaves the playoff game woozy — all of Kansas City sagging. In comes the seldom-deployed, easy-to-forget understudy.

The Chiefs led the Cleveland Browns 19-10 at the time, and would win 22-17. He didn't get the win, but give Henne the save.

He completed 6 of 8 passes for 66 yards, but it was his 13-yard scramble and then 4th-and-1 completion to Tyreek Hill that sealed the Chiefs' triumph.

"Nothing really changed for us," tight end Travis Kelce said. "Chad uplifted us, we uplifted him and and we just rallied together."

#HenneThingIsPossible, tweeted Mahomes after the game, the hashtag instantly viral.

You know what they say about the NFL? On Henne given Sunday, right?

"I don't think 'Henne Given Sunday' or 'Henne Thing Is Possible' is going to show up on LinkedIn," Henne said of the sudden mania.

Yes, Henne, by the way, has a LinkedIn page. Just in case this football thing doesn't pan out and he requires a new line of work.

Mahomes remains in concussion protocol and is questionable to be ready for Sunday's AFC Championship Game vs. the Buffalo Bills.

Closing out the playoff win against the Browns was the biggest game of Henne's 13-year career.

This Sunday would top it, if Mahomes isn't ready and it's all on Henne.

"This is why I'm here," says Henne, credo of any career backup who ever lived — meaning lived in the shadows, until the spotlight turned suddenly on. "Once I got in that huddle everybody had confidence in me."

Dolphins know, with Ryan Fitzpatrick, the value of a reliable backup QB. If they don't re-sign him, and assuming no megatrade for Deshaun Watson, a reliable safety net will have left second-year guy Tua Tagovailoa.

Now Kansas City appreciates their guy, too.

Now, this week, at 35, Chad Henne is getting more attention than he has ever had.

Out of Michigan, he has been an NFL disappointment by most measures. An 18-36 career record as starter. More interceptions (63) than touchdown passes (60). Never made a Pro Bowl. A passer rating, 76.1, that is mediocrity defined.

Couldn't unseat Chad Pennington in Miami. Got a second chance in Jacksonville that fizzled. Signed with Kansas City in 2018 to watch the Mahomes meteor rise in the sky.

Hadn't started a game since 2014 until the regular-season finale that Mahomes sat out because the reigning champs already had clinched a first-round bye.

All he has done is survive.

And get a Super Bowl ring.

He could get a second one soon, one he would have been a part of helping earn.

Chances are Mahomes will be cleared to play Sunday; either way, what just happened in the late career of a failed, long-ago Miami Dolphin was real.

If you don't believe it, just look at all the newly minted T-shirts selling this week all over Kansas City. The ones that read like a proclamation of faith, and of a career journeyman believing in himself even if nobody else does:


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