Today’s interesting fact takes a look at the longest passes thrown leaders. Every year there is one quarterback (usually) that has a completion for more yardage than any other quarterback in the league. During the 2007 season, for example, the quarterback who threw the longest completed pass of the year was the Detroit Lions‘ Jon Kitna who completed a 91 yard pass to Roy Williams. The year before that, A.J. Feeley had only played in two games for the Philadelphia Eagles, but in his limited time managed to complete an 89 yard pass to Hank Baskett and that was the longest completed pass of the season in the NFL that year. Has any player ever thrown the longest pass completion in two consecutive years though?
The answer is yes and it has happened on a few occasions.
Legendary Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham accomplished this in the early days of the franchise when they were still members of the old All American Football Conference (AAFC). He played ten seasons with the Browns, but during his rookie season in 1946 he completed a 79 yard pass to Mac Speedie (great name for a receiver!), and then the next season he threw a 99 yard pass to Speedie again.
Another National Football League legend, Y.A. Tittle, got his start in the AAFC and managed to throw the longest pass in the league in two consecutive years. In 1948, his rookie season with the AAFC’s Baltimore Colts, he completed an 80 yard pass to John North. The very next year he would complete another 80 yard pass to John North. Both of those completions were the longest ones in the league in their respective seasons.
Ed Brown played quarterback in the NFL for 12 seasons, eight of those with the Chicago Bears (1954-61). In 1959 Brown completed the longest pass of the season when he threw an 88 yard pass to Harlon Hill, the next season he threw a 91 yard pass to Willard Dewveall that was also the longest of the year.
So, in the entire history of NFL franchises only three players have managed to accomplish the difficult task of completing the longest pass of the year in two consecutive years, right? Wrong. If we go back a little farther into the history of the NFL, we will find the curious case of Green Bay Packers tailback Arnie Herber.
Arnie Herber had a 13 year NFL career, first playing for the Packers for 11 seasons and then after World War II coming back to play two final seasons for the New York Giants. Herber did in fact play tailback back in the day when forward passing was not a larger part of most offensive game plans. Although his position was tailback, he was still the primary passer on the team during his time with the Packers. In 1934 he completed a 69 yard pass to Clarke Hinkle, in 1935 his longest completion was a 83 yard pass to future pro football hall of famer Don Hutson, and then in 1936 he would throw a 58 yard pass to Hutson. All three were the longest completed pass in the NFL during the seasons they were thrown.
In the history of all NFL franchises, only three players have managed to lead the league in longest pass completion of the season in two consecutive years, but Arnie Herber who started his NFL career in 1930 sits atop the list with completing the longest passes in the league over the course of three consecutive seasons. Through the years, many of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks have completed the longest passes of the season including Donovan McNabb, Kurt Warner, Troy Aikman, Brett Favre, Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Archie Manning, Ken Stabler, Joe Namath, Roman Gabriel, Sonny Jurgensen, George Blanda, Len Dawson, Jack Kemp, Fran Tarkenton, Daryle Lamonica, Bart Starr, Bobby Layne, Babe Parilli, Sammy Baugh, Sid Luckman, and more. But only three players have done it in two consecutive years, and only one player has done it in three straight seasons.