The Hail Mary

“I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary prayer.”

With those words, the great American footballer – Roger Staubach – captured the essence of that magical moment in time when you have nothing else to give but blind faith that it is going to work out … somehow.

Had it not been for the pass that Staubach made to Drew Pearson in a 1975 American football wild card game it is not too far of a stretch to think that such an eloquent description would have been lost to the world and the concept of a long bomb would have remained so poorly named.

Today we are going to explore how the world of internal audit respond to the business equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.

But first.It is December 28th, 1975.The place — Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota.

The Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys had fought to a 10-7 Dallas lead for most of four quarters of football.

Finally, with 1:51 left in the game, the Viking offense capped a drive with a Touch Down, to go ahead 14-10. Dallas now needed another Touch Down of their own.

Quarterback Roger Staubach took over the Dallas offense at their own 15-yard line.

He did an admirable job moving the Cowboys to midfield in nine plays, all the while fighting sore ribs made tight by the cold Minnesota winter wind. But Dallas was out of time-outs and there was now less than 30 seconds on the game clock. One sack or even a completion in the middle of the field, and time would be all but exhausted.

It seemed the effort would be fruitless.

Lining up once again in shotgun formation, Staubach took the snap, pump-faked left, then turned to his right and fired the ball deep downfield.

Cowboys Wide Receiver Drew Pearson was out there, being shadowed by Vikings Nate Wright.

Both turned to the outside to follow the flight of the ball, Pearson cutting under Wright. But Wright would slip on the frozen turf. Nevertheless, he seemed to be in position to stop the pass.

As the ball came down, Pearson pushed off of Wright and caught the pass, trapping it against his hip at the 5-yard line.

As Pearson strode into the end zone, free safety Paul Krause hurdled over Wright, screaming at field judge Armen Terzian for the interference call that was never made.

And an orange whizzed by Pearson at the goal line.

For his effort, Terzian was struck in the head and cut open by a whiskey bottle thrown from the stands.

The old Met crowd, celebrating another step towards a Super Bowl just a moment before, was now quiet, seething in anger and gaping in stunned disbelief.

In a post-game interview, someone described the play to Staubach, who had been hit immediately after throwing the ball and didn’t see its ending.

“You mean he [Pearson] caught the ball and ran in for the touchdown?” Staubach asked.

“It was just a Hail Mary pass; a very, very lucky play.”

“I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary prayer.”


Here at McLeod Governance sport central it is fair to say that our knowledge of the history of the Hail Mary pass was somewhat lacking before we started researching this post.

As we did come to learn of the deeds of Staubach on that cold December day the analogies with that all too familiar last gasp, hope against hope, business initiative that we have all seen became all too clear.

It is the business Hail Mary Pass that Honestly Lay Bare always has found the most difficult to provide assurance over.

Sure, we can check that the processes are in place just as Staubach no doubt had practiced many set routines.

What we as a profession, however, seem incapable of doing is providing real time assurance over that hope against hope business initiative. An initiative that is both at once immeasurably risky and capable of untold rewards if it comes off.

And that then begs the question – should we.

Are there some transactions that Internal Audit has no real business interest in?

What value does Internal Audit bring to a business Hail Mary transaction?

If the answer to that is none we destined to become the modern day Armen Terzian.Someone there to enforce the rules in the less stressful times but when it really matters we are but a hinderance.Now if you will excuse us it is back to the ball game.

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