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Income effect v. substitution effect, New York Jets edition

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I thought this was an interesting little glimpse into the ethnographic economics of playing in the NFL.

Chad Henne is a 38-year-old 15-year veteran NFL quarterback, who retired last winter, after backing up Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City for several seasons. (Although Henne barely played in KC, he did bail out the team a couple of times in crucial games when Mahomes got hurt).

Henne made about $38.6 million in salaries over his career, which is a lot of money unless you buy too many meals at the Newark airport when your flight is delayed, and/or are a Republican member of the “upper middle class,” like Clarence Thomas.

Anyhoo, when the Covid vaccine required Aaron Rodgers’s leg to be amputated last week, the New York Jets were looking for a backup quarterback, and they called Henne. Now what this would mean, probably, is that Henne would hold a clipboard for three months while wearing a baseball cap backwards on the sidelines, although it being the Jets he might well have to play at some point. Still, there’s a good chance he could pick up around $1.5 to $2 million for three months of doing not a whole lot, which sounds like pretty good pay for not a lot of work (kind of like writing a regular column for the NYT).

But he said no.

In an interview with the Reading Eagle, former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne revealed that the Jets gave him a call. Henne said he was excited, but declined the offer. He is a volunteer assistant football coach at Wilson High School in Pennsylvania, where he played football once upon a time. 

“I hung them up for the right reasons,” Henne said. “I didn’t want to go back and put my body into it.” . . .

In economic analysis, there’s an eternal tension between the income effect — the more money you have, the less valuable more money is to you — and the substitution effect — the more you get paid, the more it costs you to replace labor with leisure.

I thought this was a telling glimpse into what sort of physical punishment, or in this case more like potential punishment, being NFL player in general and quarterback in particular involves.

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