The Hail Mary was invented by Hall-of-Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, but it was perfected four decades later by another quarterback.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers completed three last-second prayers the past two seasons — one to beat Detroit in a 2015 stunner, one to tie Arizona and send a 2015 playoff game into overtime and one to help bury the Giants in a 2016 playoff victory.
Some quarterbacks never complete one Hail Mary in their careers, but Rodgers pulled a hat trick in the span of 13 months. His secret?
“You’ve got to be a clean liver,” he said on a recent Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “You’ve got to live a really clean life.”
He was joking, of course. But his Hail Marys are no joke to opponents. His 61-yard heave at the gun vs. Detroit (“The Miracle in Motown”) was the longest Hail Mary in NFL history. His bomb vs. Arizona was the most improbable, with Rodgers getting off the throw from a difficult angle as Markus Golden closed in. And his Hail Mary just before the half in last season’s wildcard playoff game vs. New York did to the Giants what Eli Manning’s Hail Mary just before the half in the 2011 playoffs did to the Packers.
So let’s try this again: The secret to Rodgers’ success with Hail Marys is …
“We have practiced it before, and I think I throw it pretty good,” he said. “We’ve had pretty good success. The angle with which that ball is dropping in all three of those is a little different than some of those Hail Marys that you see across the league … a little flatter. So I think the height definitely helps.
“And then sometimes you just have to have … in two of the three … you have to have people misjudge the ball. You look at the Lions’ one, the guys kind of misjudged the ball. That ball came right down the chimney, as we say — straight down.
“Same thing with the one against the Giants in the playoffs last year. It was just up there so high it was pretty hard to gauge for the receivers where it’s going to be. The Arizona one was just a reaction — running left and just getting it up in the air and as far as possible.”
But, Rodgers insisted, there is a method to the madness he creates. As he explained, Hail Marys are not simply the residue of good fortune — though that helps. There’s more involved … at least there is for Aaron Rodgers.
“The Lions’ one and the Giants one, I know where that ball is coming down,” he said. “I knew with the Lions, it was the first four yards of the end zone, and the Giants’ one was the back of it (the end zone). It’s just based on a feel, having thrown those before in practice, and just kind of knowing your arm strength.
“So it’s just trusting that something’s going to happen. But you have to have a little bit of good fortune.”