Amid the controversy surrounding the holding penalty at the end of Super Bowl LVII, rumors of Andy Reid’s retirement, and people trashing Travis Kelce for saying everyone doubted Kansas City when absolutely zero people doubted them, several other storylines have been overlooked. While Andy Reid may not be retiring, Chiefs’ backup quarterback Chad Henne is.
Although Henne was a Chief in 2018 and had been since 2020, Henne was not part of Kansas City’s 2019 championship team. Sunday was Henne’s first Super Bowl title, and after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, he opted to call it a career. Henne played for 13 seasons over the course of 15 years for the Dolphins, Jaguars, and Chiefs. He was 18-36 with a 59.6 completion percentage and 76.1 passer rating. Henne also had 60 touchdown passes to his name to go along with 63 interceptions.
Henne is the epitome of a career backup. Although he did start 10 or more games three times throughout his career, he was never the franchise cornerstone that his team could lean on to carry them to the playoffs. Instead of lurking in the nightmares of opposing defensive coordinators, Henne slept peacefully knowing that he could sit behind Patrick Mahomes, rarely see the field, and still cash millions of dollars. In 2022, Henne earned $2 million. He attempted two passes all season. That’s one million dollars per pass attempt. Neither were completions either! Chad Henne got paid $2 million and earned a Super Bowl ring while throwing two passes and accruing a 39.6 passer rating. That’s awesome!
For his career, Henne earned $38,605,500 while attempting only 2,030 passes — 15 of which came during various postseason runs. That’s $19,017.49 per career pass attempt. That’s nuts! Even the greatest quarterback con men like Brock Osweiler and Sam Bradford need to tip their caps to that figure. It’s got the potential to be the most money ever made per NFL pass attempt, right? I mean, it’s decent, but it’s nowhere close to what other backup quarterbacks have made in their careers. Here are the quarterbacks who earned the most money per pass attempt in the NFL.
Note: Obviously, there are hundreds of quarterbacks who have earned NFL contracts only to never see the field in their careers. They don’t count. In order to qualify for this list, a quarterback must have at least five games started in the regular season. Furthermore, this list will only include quarterbacks who were active on NFL rosters in 2000 or later. Obviously, NFL contracts have gotten more and more exorbitant as the league’s popularity has grown, so anybody who earns a spot on this list should have played relatively recently. All in all, there were 224 quarterbacks to meet the criteria. Here are the top 10.
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A product of Clemson, Whitehurst was drafted in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. He didn’t throw his first pass in the NFL until 2010 though, as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. It’s funny. Despite having zero pass attempts in his career prior to 2010, the Seahawks were willing to give Whitehurst a two-year, $8 million deal to be Matt Hasselbeck’s backup. Why? No idea.
Whitehurst attempted only 155 passes for the Seahawks through his two years there and then returned to the Chargers only to take another two-year hiatus from passing the ball. Ultimately, Whitehurst earned $5,368,000 with the Chargers and never threw a single pass in a regular or postseason game for them. That’s an all-time con if I’ve ever seen one.
Unfortunately for Whitehurst, he had to play in seven games — starting in five of them — in 2014 with Tennessee. He averaged over 25 pass attempts per game during that season. The Cleveland Browns also signed Whitehurst for three weeks in 2016, Whitehurst only had to play one of those games, but was still forced to throw the ball 24 times. Those unfortunate stints are what keep Whitehurst at the bottom of our list. Still, $44,310 per pass attempt is nothing to scoff at.
This one is a little misleading. Pryor spent the first four years of his NFL career as a failed quarterback prospect with Oakland. However, after going unsigned in 2014, Pryor’s career saw a resurgence as he transitioned to wide receiver. Most of the money that Pryor earned in the NFL was from the contract he signed with the Washington Redskins after putting up 1,007 receiving yards and four touchdowns with Cleveland in 2016.
I debated whether or not Pryor should be up for consideration on this list, but Pro-Football-Reference still lists him as a quarterback and that website has never led me astray. Ultimately, over 97 percent of all Pryor’s pass attempts came as a Raider. Only nine came after he transitioned to wide receiver. If he’d never made that move, Pryor would’ve only earned $6,327.12 per pass attempt. However, Pryor’s willingness to change positions not only saved his career, but more importantly, ranks him ninth all-time on this list — clearly, a much greater accomplishment.
Through five seasons in the NFL, Watson has played in only 60 games due to an injury and suspension. Despite playing minimally in each of the last two seasons, Watson still earned oodles of cash — $55,907,500 with $44,965,000 coming in the form of a signing bonus with the Cleveland Browns prior to the 2022 season.
While this deal was always going to be terrible for Cleveland given Watson’s past, the deal could be even worse if 2022 is any indicator of Watson’s future. In six games with the Browns, Watson threw only seven touchdowns while tossing five interceptions. Watson set career lows in completion percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating, and touchdown percentage. His backup, Jacoby Brissett, outshined him down the final stretch of the season. Where Watson was supposed to help lead a late postseason push, he instead made the team’s front office regret every decision they’d ever made, which is tough to do considering this is the Browns we’re talking about.
Watson is set to make $184 million over the next four years, so even if he remains the full-time starter and avoids injury through the rest of his contract, he’ll still earn lots and lots of cash for every career pass attempt.
Famous for being Josh McCown’s brother and a spokesperson for Verizon for a short stint in 2016, Luke McCown spent 14 years in the NFL and only ever started 10 games. Still, McCown averaged 28.1 pass attempts in games where he started, including 38 attempts in the final start of his career in 2015.
In 2007, McCown attempted 32 passes against San Francisco despite not starting that game. In fact, that game was part of a stretch where McCown threw more than 30 passes in three of five games. That’s obviously what keeps McCown so low. Regardless, McCown was such a textbook backup that he earned multiple commercial deals based on being a backup, and that lengthy career earns him a spot on this list.
The ire of many Cardinals fans’ eyes, Drew Stanton conned the Desert Birds for nearly $15 million between 2013 and 2017. However, Arizona wasn’t the only organization Stanton did dirty. He also managed to basically steal over six million from the Browns, four million from the Jets, and six million from the Lions. He also only ever threw passes for two of those teams — the Cardinals and Lions.
It doesn’t make sense, right? Even in those rare cases where Stanton was forced to throw, he never impressed. He threw more interceptions (24) than he did touchdowns (20) and had a career completion percentage of 52.4. The only bright side was that Stanton did have a winning record, going 11-6 whenever he started. Perhaps that winning feeling is what kept so many teams interested despite Stanton’s preposterous play.
Ah, yes. This man threw six touchdowns in the final week of the 2011 season and promptly earned a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Did Flynn ever throw a pass for the Seahawks? Yes! Nine!
Flynn lost the starting job to rookie Russell Wilson, and Flynn was dropped by the Seahawks after just one season. No other team was willing to give him a legitimate shot at earning the starting job though. He only started five games the rest of his career, and four of which came in his return to Green Bay the following season. He played in five games for the Packers in 2013, and four of those games saw Flynn attempt more than 30 passes. If not for that stretch where Aaron Rodgers missed time due to a clavicle fracture, Flynn would be much higher on this list. Alas, he’ll have to settle for the top five.
One of the biggest busts of all-time JaMarcus Russell earned a massive contract as the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft, and swiftly gave everyone involved massive headaches. Six years, $61 million, but the Raiders backed out after three seasons, and they still had to give Russell an additional $3 million in 2010.
Still, despite the early dropout, the Raiders were forced to pay Russell nearly $40 million of that contract. Meanwhile, Russell only really had one full season as the team’s starter, and he averaged only 24.5 pass attempts per game.
After starting only seven games for the Patriots and 49ers in 2016 and 2017, Garoppolo earned a massive contract worth $137,500,00 over five years. Then, he got hurt. Then he played a full season. Then he got hurt again. Injuries really derailed any chance Garoppolo had of having thousands of pass attempts. However, even when healthy, Garoppolo participated in a very run-heavy system.
Famously, Garoppolo only threw eight passes during the 2019 NFC Championship Game against Green Bay. Regardless, Jimmy G’s 49ers still won the game handedly. The story surrounding Garoppolo was that the 49ers won in spite of him rather than because of him. Garoppolo’s inability to lead an offense forced head coach Kyle Shanahan to scheme around Garoppolo, minimizing his impact on the game. That combo led Garoppolo to have only 1,858 pass attempts across 63 starts in his career. That’s the eighth-fewest of any quarterback with at least 50 games started, but none of the men above him on that list earned as massive a contract as Garoppolo did.
Much like Terrelle Pryor, Taysom Hill’s massive figure comes from his work as a utility man. That’s not saying he doesn’t work as a quarterback; he’s listed as a quarterback on Pro-Football-Reference after all. However, Hill earned so much money for his ability to return kicks, play tight end, play receiver, run the ball, block, do everyone’s taxes, tell incredible jokes in the locker room, motivate the team, and throw the ball.
Hill has thrown at least six passes every season since 2018. That’s enough for him to warrant consideration on this list. He’s one of only two “quarterbacks” to earn six figures per pass attempt in his career.
Why has this man lasted so long in the NFL? I have no idea, but Chase Daniel has somehow found his way onto an NFL roster every season since 2010. A career backup, Daniel has been lucky that he’s never sat behind an injured quarterback. When Daniel has been forced to play, he’s been solid too. His career passer rating is a respectable 85.8 and he’s got more touchdowns (9) than interceptions (7).
Does that warrant the nearly $42 million he’s earned in the NFL? Not at all, but somehow teams just love having this guy around. Daniel has snuck his way into six different NFL locker rooms. He’s started only five games in his career, but appeared in 74, oftentimes as someone just meant to take the snap and take a knee to seal away the game. Daniel is the NFL’s ultimate con man. For every pass attempt in his career, he’s earned more than most Americans make in three years. That’s just smart business in a rather unforgiving sport. Daniel has had a long illustrious career, rarely ever having to set foot on a football field. What a man!