Aaron Rodgers: The Hail Mary King

As our time with Aaron Rodgers being the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers nears its end, we look back on some of the greatest moments in his 18 years as signal caller for the franchise. Aaron Rodgers is without a doubt one of the most gifted throwers of the football in NFL history, capable of making even the most difficult throws look easy. Nowhere is that more apparent than when looking at three passes that earned him the nickname “The Hail Mary King”

The “Hail Mary” was a term coined by Cowboys HOF QB Roger Staubach when, down 10-14 to the Minnesota Vikings in the 1975 Divisional Round, he lobbed up a deep, 50-yard bomb to wide receiver Drew Pearson, who split the two Vikings defenders and came down with the game winning touchdown. When asked about the pass in the post-game interview, Staubach said “When I closed my eyes, I said a Hail Mary.”

From that day onward, the term “Hail Mary” became more widely used to describe a last ditch, incredibly unlikely, desperation throw to score a touchdown on either the final play of the first half or regulation. According to my research, there have only been 34 successful Hail Mary attempts since Staubach’s, with the most recent being former Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield’s 57-yard touchdown at the end of the first half in a game against the Arizona Cardinals in 2021.

Most NFL quarterbacks who have recorded a Hail Mary have only done so once. Three quarterbacks have been lucky enough to have done so twice: Atlanta Falcons QB Steve Bartowski, Cleveland Browns QB Tim Couch, and Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton. There is only one quarterback who has accomplished this feat a whopping three times: Aaron Rodgers.

The first of his Hail Mary’s came against the Detroit Lions in 2015 where on the last play of regulation down 23-21, Rodgers rolled out to the right and launched a 61-yard lob into a sea of Packers receivers and Lions defenders where tight end Richard Rodgers leapt over the pile and secured the winning touchdown.

The second came later that same season, in the Divisional Round of the playoffs against the Cardinals. Down 20-13 with two seconds on the clock and moments removed from another improbable throw on 4th and 20 to Jeff Janis to keep the drive alive, Rodgers was immediately pressure, rolled out to his left, and while falling down, launched a 41-yard pass to Janis again who leapt over Cardinals all-pro cornerback Patrick Peterson and came down with the game tying pass. The Packers would unfortunately go on to lose in overtime.

The third and final of his hail mary attempts came in the Wild Card Round of the 2016 playoffs against the New York Giants. At the end of the first half, with six seconds on the clock from the Giants 42-yard line, Rodgers dropped back and from his own 48-yard line, threw a pass that wound up in Randall Cobb’s arms in the back of the endzone for the touchdown that put them up 14-6 at the end of the first half. The Packers would go on to win the game 38-13.

Accomplishing one Hail Mary touchdown is lucky, accomplishing three is mind blowing and makes you wonder if there is an art to throwing the perfect Hail Mary. According to Rodgers during an interview on the Pat McAfee Show, “the key for ours has always kind of been the trajectory.” Height is clearly the key for Rodgers’ Hail Mary’s, as we can see from his Hail Mary against Detroit. The Ball was thrown at such an angle that the apex of its trajectory nearly caused it to hit the rafters of Ford Field, and if the play were to take place at Dallas’s AT&T Stadium, the ball would’ve likely hit the jumbotron.

However he does it, Rodgers undoubtedly earned the title of Hail Mary King, with his three Hail Mary’s in two years being unheard of and will likely never come close to being replicated again. Rodgers is one of the most talented QBs to ever play in the NFL, and his success with the Hail Mary is just the tip of the iceberg of what he was capable of doing in clutch moments in his prime. His ability to steal wins away from teams in the final moments of the game will always be remembered by Packers fans everywhere.
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