What Is A Hail Mary In Football

A hail mary is a long distance often last second throw towards the endzone. These plays are done in dire situations in which a long distance touchdown is the offensive teams only chance to get back into the game.

The name Hail Mary is a reference to the catholic prayer of Hail Mary due to the plays low chance of sucess. In other words they are “throwing up a prayer”.

On this play, all the receivers will run deep routes into the opposing team’s endzone. On these plays, the quarterback will attempt to throw a deep high ball into the endzone. This allows the players a chance to get into position for the catch.

Due to the receivers running similar routes and the defenders expecting the play, a hail mary often results in a large number of players jumping up for the ball. These make it difficult for a player of either team to catch it. Though every once in a while the ball finds its hand in the hands of a receiver for a game-winning touchdown.

Who Threw the longest hail mary of all time

When it comes to throwing the longest hail mary of all time there are two separate records. The longest throw of all time in this category goes to Baker Mayfield. On the play below Baker attempts the pass and throws the ball over seventy yards.

Not only is the longest hail mary attempt of all time it is also the longest throw in NFL history. The only issue is no one was able to catch this pass. Making it the longest failed hail mary throw of all time.

The longest completed hail mary of all time belongs to Arron Rodgers and Richard Rodgers. This pass travelled a total of sixty-one yards making it the longest of all time. This pass also won the game for the packers in the last second leading it to be referred to as the miracle in Motown.

Who Threw The First One

The first Hail Mary pass ever thrown was on December 28, 1975. The pass was thrown by hall of fame quarterback Roger Staubach. A last-second pass was thrown to receiver Drew Pearson.

After the game when Staubach was interviewed about the pass he said “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.” This sentence coined the term and established the first use of this term in football history.

How Long Is The Average Hail Mary?

The average hail mary distance since 2009 has been 44.7 yards past the line of scrimmage. Keep in mind the passing yardage in the examples above consider the total yardage the ball travelled not distance from the line of scrimmage.

The fact that the average hail mary travels of 44 goes to show that most teams are not in field goal range. This goes to show that the majority of Hail Mary’s come out of desperation.

How Often Do They Work?

Since hail marys have become common place in the NFL only roughly nine percent of Hail Mary’s have worked succesfully in the NFL.

This is an incredibly low number but is fairly expected due to the desperation of the play. When a hail mary occurs there is no question of what play is coming.

NFL defences have specific plays and personnel ready to defend against hail marys whenever they arise. This makes it very difficult to pull one off successfully.

Why Even Attempt It

We know a hail mary is a desperation play. But why do teams decide to run this play instead of one of the many others they use to score touchdowns throughout the game? Below are a few reasons why Hail Marys are the play of choice when desperate.


Time is arguably the biggest factor in attempting this pass. There is no other play in the playbook that can get the ball into the end zone faster than a Hail Mary. You may have plays with a higher probability of success but these plays will take up too much time.

Turnover On Downs

Another common use of this play occurs when a turnover on downs situation is looming. If it is fourth and long and you need to score a Hail Mary is often the top option. This is because fourth and long plays already have very low probabilities.

That being said to use this play on fourth down you will likely have to be concerned about time as well. These plays only occur when fourth and long while needing to score on the drive.

Pass Interference Potential

One more reason that coaches utilize this play is for the potential pass interference call. A pass interference call in the end zone is going to take you down right to the one-yard line. Even if there is no time left on the clock the refs will allow you one attempt from the one-yard line.

These penalties are more likely to happen if you have multiple players in the end zone during the play. Though these penalties are even more unlikely than a successful catch they still increase the odds of this play working.

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