How Impressive Was Adam Griffith’s Iron Bowl Performance?
One player on Alabama's roster single-handedly outscored the Auburn Tigers this past Saturday in this year's rendition of the Iron Bowl. It wasn't Heisman Trophy candidate Derrick Henry. It wasn't stud wide receiver Calvin Ridley. To just about everyone's surprise, it was junior kicker Adam Griffith.
It's a story of redemption. We all remember the Kick Six. Griffith, more than anyone, remembers that infamous play. He was a freshman, called upon to make a long, high-pressured field goal in Jordan-Hare Stadium to send the Tide to the SEC Championship Game and potentially send them to the BCS National Championship Game.
The rest is history.
Many people may let that one negative happening affect the rest of their lives. Griffith had a rough season last year, and also had a rough start to the 2015 campaign. But he's moved on from that one play, and has proved that he's a talented kicker with plenty of leg to hit any field goal.
Saturday, in his return to Jordan-Hare Stadium, he found his redemption and proverbially told his doubters, "Check out what I just did." Griffith made all five of his field goal attempts: two from 26 yards, one from 40 yards, 47 yards, and a 50 yarder. Those field goals alone outscored the Tigers (15 points).
Making five field goals is a tough feat to perform, mainly because field goal kickers rarely get the opportunity to kick five field goals in a game, but the odds of making five out of five field goals is pretty low, which makes what he did on Saturday even more special.
But this made me curious. Sure, theoretically it's rare to make five field goals, given all the variables in kicking a football, but what are the actual mathematical odds of making those five specific field goals that Griffith knocked through Saturday?
So the investigation began.
Since finding out the intrinsically and empirically true chance of making a certain field goal is next to impossible, I decided to check out how kickers have performed this season and use those numbers to analyze Griffith's performance on Saturday.
To start, you need to know the how every kicker in the country has fared with field goals from each respective distance, and since we categorize field goals from 1-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, and 50+ yards, that's what we'll go by (I don't have time to look up every 26-yard, 40-yard, 47-yard, and 50-yard field goal. These numbers aren't exact science, but they're close enough for you to get the idea).
For each kicker in the FBS division, 95.9% of each field goal attempt from 1-19 yards (47 out of 49) has been made thus far this season. This number has absolutely nothing to do with Griffith's stats, but I was curious, so I looked it up.
Now, 87.6% of field goal attempts from 20-29 yards have been made, as is expected when you move the ball farther away from the goal posts (622 out of 710). And, predictably, the percentage of made field goals decreases as the length of the field goal increases. We see that 76.55% of field goals have been made from 30-39 yards, 60.98% have been made from 40-49 yards, and only 41.21% of field goals have been made from 50+ yards this season in the FBS division.
So since we (I) don't have any other way of predicting the odds of Adam Griffith making any specific field goal, I decided to just find the conditional probability of an FBS kicker making the five field goals that Griffith made on Saturday.
There's a 76.7% chance of a kicker making two out of two 20-29 yard field goals. The chance of a kicker making two out of two 40-49 yard field goals? Cut that previous percentage in half: 37.2%. And let's not forget that only 41.21% of 50+ yarders have been made this season.
So what all does this mean?
Saving you a math lesson, we find that the probability of a kicker making the five field goals that Griffith made during the 2015 Iron Bowl to be...
Like I said, this isn't a scientifically true probability, it could be lower or it could be higher, but it's good enough to show that what Griffith did against Auburn is rare.
Oh, and he also knocked through two extra points and had seven touchbacks, two aspects of kicking that many people often overlook.
So to answer the question, "How impressive was Adam Griffith's Iron Bowl performance?", all we need is the one word that journalism professors tell students to avoid when trying to find an adjective to describe the amplitude of a noun: "very."