If Alabama backup kicker Adam Griffith hits the 57-yard field goal, Alabama wins without having to go to overtime. The odds of that kick going through the uprights aren’t great at any level. Since 1999, pro kickers are 31-for-87 (35.6 percent) on field goals from between 56 and 58 yards out, and they’re obviously much better than your typical college kicker. The only argument in Griffith’s favor is that he, unlike some pro kickers in this situation, is not stuck kicking in a situation for which he lacks the leg. Nick Saban didn’t need to stick Griffith out there to try to win the game; he would only send out his backup kicker if he thought Griffith had a legitimate shot at making the kick. Given that Griffith nearly put the bomb through the uprights, Saban wasn’t wrong to believe in Griffith. Let’s throw a wild guess out there and suggest Griffith’s odds of making the kick were right around 18 percent…
The truth is that returning the kick for a touchdown is far from a sure thing, despite what selective memory tells us. From my count, there have been four such returns in the NFL since 2002, each of which came from a kick from a minimum of 52 yards. Even if we don’t consider the made field goals, that’s four touchdowns amid 389 missed field goals from that distance — a mere 1 percent rate of kicks returned for touchdowns. Even if you assume the odds are greater just by having a guy back there to return and you throw in the odds of a blocked field goal being returned for a touchdown, you’re never going to come to a number that’s higher than the odds of Alabama actually making the kick. Saban was right to try for the game winner. He played to win the game.
Outcome notwithstanding, Saban’s decision to challenge the clock and try the 57 yard kick was obviously correct; doing anything else at that point would have been coaching malpractice.
Also, ‘Bama fans are colossal douchebags.
…I’m flummoxed that I have to point this out, but the question “What about the odds of winning in OT” are effectively irrelevant for this question, because in the vast majority of outcomes Alabama still gets to try to win in OT. We’re not talking about a case like the OSU-UM game, where the likelihood of an OT victory is a legitimate variable. If the field goal misses and (as is the case in the vast majority of situations) an Auburn TD does not result, then we get… OT. Saban isn’t giving that up.
…Njorl makes the case:
In the NFL, hail mary’s from 40 have about a 3% chance of success give or take 1%. Attempting the FG gave them a much better chance of winning in regulation.
The question then becomes whether the kick gave Auburn an unacceptably high chance of winning compared to Alabama.
In the NFL, kickers make that kick 36% of the time.
In the NFL, kickoffs and punts that are returned go for TDs less than 0.5% of the time.
There is a greater than 50% chance that the kick (good or bad) would go out of the endzone
That’s a factor of at least 144 to 1 in Alabama’s favor, but there are obvious complications.
College kickers are worse than pro kickers.
College coverage teams are less disciplined than pro coverage teams.
Field goals teams are very poor at coverage, while the return man is every bit as good at returning them as he is at returning other kicks.
Those complicating factors don’t make up for the 144 to 1 edge in my opinion. If I thought my kicker had even a 10% chance of making it, I’d try it.
It’s possible that Saban knows his kicker could not possibly make the kick, but sent him out there anyway, but that requires one to assume that Saban is an idiot. I can accept the possibility that Saban is bad at math. I can’t accept that he’s a complete idiot.