On the Washington Football Team's opening drive against the Lions, a poor play design on a double reverse followed by a bad sack left the offense in a fourth-and-very long after having a second-and-2 at Detroit's 14-yard line.
There was plenty of reason to be frustrated with the decision on second down, as well as Alex Smith taking a sack on third down, but something else bothered former Washington tight end Chris Cooley. He was upset that Washington opted to punt at the 38-yard line rather than attempt a long field goal.
The decision to do that most likely stemmed from kicker Dustin Hopkins' inconsistent season. 12-of-17 on the campaign, anything beyond 40 yards is no guarantee as he is now just 6-of-10 from that distance. Cooley believes that if Washington doesn't feel comfortable trying for three points there, then they have the wrong kicker.
"Not to harp on this over and over, but I’ll just make it very clear, if you can’t kick a field goal there, you can’t have that kicker," Cooley said on The Kevin Sheehan Show Podcast. "As much as he’s missed, and I like Hopkins, you got to let him go, you go to let Hopkins go right now.”
“I’m dead serious, he’s gotta be done," Cooley said.
Hopkins has been under the spotlight in recent weeks, and the light is only getting brighter after Week 10. Hopkins missed a 43-yard field goal against the Lions, marking the third time in four games a kick didn't go through the upright. In a contest in which Washington fell by just three points, the miss loomed largely.
Head coach Ron Rivera said on Monday that the team is "discussing" bringing in a new kicker, but Cooley is adamant that a change needs to be made. Kevin Sheenan mentioned that Hopkins later hit a 41-yard field goal to tie the game at 27-27 in the final minute, something that Cooley doesn't think matters long term. He can't have Washington continue to second-guess a decision to kick or fall by a slim margin because their kicker is unreliable.
“I’m aware of that, but we cannot afford to miss a field goal almost every single week," Cooley said. "It’s just not good enough. So it’s either that or you have to reevaluate what you’re doing with Hopkins.”
Should Rivera want to stick with Hopkins, Cooley thinks something that could potentially help get him back on track is bringing in a former kicker to work with Hopkins on a daily basis. Referring to it as a "kicking coach," he feels there should be more teaching for him than what a standard special teams coach can do.
“Maybe it’s not just the special teams coach, maybe you go out and get a great former kicker and you’re like ‘Okay, we want you to just be with this dude," Hopkins said. "Because he can do it.”
Hopkins can do it, he's shown that in the past. Prior to this season, he's never had a field goal success rate below 81 percent.
Yet, no matter what may be causing the struggles, it will get hard for Washington to wait around much longer and hope he regresses to the mean. A missed field goal can be the difference between a win and a loss, and there are other options out there. From what Cooley has seen in 2020, he suggests the change coming sooner rather than later.