KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs know as well as any team in the NFL the importance of backup quarterbacks, and that makes the fact that coach Andy Reid called the competition for the spot too close to call after Monday’s practice noteworthy.

The Chiefs signed veteran Blaine Gabbert to fill the role of Chad Henne, who retired last season after five years as the primary backup to Patrick Mahomes.

But Gabbert has been pushed throughout camp by Shane Buechele, a former undrafted free agent and practice squad staple, and the duo continues to go back and forth heading into the Chiefs’ preseason finale.

Buechele got most of the work with the No. 2 offense on Monday. Gabbert has worked in that role as well.

“Those two are real close. Real close,” Reid said. “We’ll just let it play out here. See how it goes. But that’s good competition.”

The Chiefs have other spots still to be decided heading into Saturday’s game against the Browns, including the last couple of wide receiver jobs and spots along the defensive line.

But those aren’t nearly as important as the quarterback, where the backup can go from holding a clipboard to having an entire season resting in his hands in an instant.

That was the case twice for Henne during his time in Kansas City.

The first time against the Browns during the divisional round of the 2020 playoffs, when Mahomes was knocked from the game with a concussion early in the second half. Henne led the Chiefs the rest of the way, completing an audacious fourth-and-1 throw to Tyreek Hill near midfield in the final minutes to put away a 22-17 victory.

The Chiefs beat the Bills for the AFC title before losing to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl.

The second time came last season, when Mahomes sprained his ankle late in the first half against Jacksonville. The Chiefs led 10-7 when Henne trotted onto the field, with Kansas City backed up to its 2-yard line, and led the Chiefs 98 yards with a short touchdown throw to Travis Kelce finishing off another superb emergency appearance.

Mahomes finished out the 27-20 victory, then led Kansas City past the Bengals in the AFC title game before beating the Eagles in the Super Bowl — when Henne was still at the ready as Mahomes played through his injury.

So yes, the backup quarterback job certainly matters in Kansas City.

“That’s what makes a great team,” Buechele said, “is when guys are competing for a spot.”

Not just any competition, though. Quality competition.

Gabbert has the benefit of experience, entering the league as a first-round pick in 2011 and playing for five different teams over the past 11 seasons. He’s appeared in 67 games, making 48 starts, and thrown for more than 9,300 yards. And all of that is a big reason why the Chiefs signed him to a $1,317,500 contract for this season.

“We were watching film,” the 33-year-old Gabbert said, recalling a moment from a meeting earlier in camp, “and there’s a play we put in at the end of the game and it was from 2011 in Jacksonville, and they were like, ‘That was you at quarterback? We couldn’t even see you the film was so grainy.’ So that really made me feel old.”

Meanwhile, the 25-year-old Buechele has never thrown a regular-season NFL pass. But he does have the benefit of experience in what can be a complicated system, spending the past two seasons on the Kansas City practice squad.

“This is the first time that I’ve ever been in the same offense for three years in a row,” Buechele said. “I feel confident in my ability and my preparation and knowing this offense in and out. Obviously we can keep getting smarter, but just the confidence I have and the preparation in knowing this offense has really helped me be successful on the field.”

It just might earn him the Chiefs’ backup job, too.