Perry Riley's illegal block is not the Washington Redskins' problem

Brett Favre leads the Vikings past the Redskins at FedEx Field.
By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 29, 2010; 1:03 AM

When a third straight season without a playoff game for Washington is filtered and distilled, poor Perry Riley is certain to get the goat treatment.

But that would be a mistake. Don't buy the idea that if the Redskins' 22-year-old linebacker hadn't needlessly clipped a Vikings player on Brandon Banks's scintillating punt return for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, this town would be alive with noise and belief about its 6-5 NFL team - that it's all the kid's fault.

Scapegoat the rookie and you're as reactionary as the former brain trust. Riley's brain-lock moment was merely a window into a season - a decade, really - of self-inflicted wounds that will in all likelihood keep the Redskins from the postseason in Mike Shanahan's first year in Washington.

On Sunday alone, if Santana Moss had only snagged a laser off his pads that became an interception, if Donovan McNabb's receivers had not dropped, oh, five passes, Riley's gaffe is forgotten.

Further, if the Redskins don't fall apart against the Texans at the end of Week 2, if they don't wilt on the road against the Rams and Lions, they're sitting pretty the last month of the season.

Now it's run the table or else, from a franchise that has not won three games in a row since Jim Zorn's first month of the 2008 season.

"St. Louis, Detroit, Houston," Chris Cooley said, rattling off the list of games that also got away after Brett Favre and the Vikings killed the clock at FedEx Field and emerged with a 17-13 victory. "It's not indicative of a playoff team."

"A good team will push it over the top," he added. "We have the potential to be that team, but we are not. I'm not saying we're a bad team . . ."

No, but something about the urgency and passion with which they played Sunday had 8-8 written in stone - again. If that mark came to pass, it would be the fourth .500 mark in the Daniel Snyder era and the eighth non-winning season in his 11 years of stewardship.

This isn't Perry Riley's fault. It isn't Mike Shanahan's, either. (Though it would have been nice for Play-Caller Kyle to display more innovation after using Banks early in the Wildcat formation, an opening drive of style and precision that represented Washington's only touchdown.)

The sobering truth: These are the cards the last regime dealt Shanahan, the final decision-maker, and Bruce Allen, the general manager.

The coach's biggest problems to date: Albert Haynesworth's contract, offensive-line and running-back positions horrendously neglected in the draft the past decade and a receiving corps so marginal in talent that a released second-rounder like Devin Thomas was cut by a lousy Carolina squad.

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