- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

The New England Patriots seem to have hit on something, a strategy right out of “The Boys from Brazil.” Ever see that movie? One of the all-time classics.

A brief summary: A neo-Nazi group led by Dr. Josef Mengele tries to bring back the Third Reich by creating a bunch of Hitler clones. The key to the clones’ psychological development is losing their fathers — or in this case, having them killed off — at the same age Young Adolf lost his (13).

Presto, a monster is born. (Or so the plan goes.)

The Patriots’ version goes like this: At the start of the season, get rid of a well-liked, though not absolutely essential veteran — just to shake things up. Then stand back and watch the team close ranks, even reinvent itself. In 2003, when management got rid of safety Lawyer Milloy, the Pats went on to win the Super Bowl (and the Super Bowl after that, too). This year, Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick pulled the same stunt, sacrificing holdout receiver Deion Branch, and once again the results have been excellent. The team is off and flying with a 6-1 record, including blowout wins in the last three road games by 25 (Cincinnati), 22 (Buffalo) and 24 (Minnesota) points.

Why aren’t more clubs following New England’s lead? This might be the best idea in the NFL since the zone blitz. Owners and coaches are always complaining about how hard it is to motivate players now that they’re making so much money. The Patriots’ “Boys from Brazil” ploy appears to be just the ticket — kill off somebody in the first few weeks … and unleash your team’s Inner Monster (though not, of course, in the Hitler sense — more in the Rodney Harrison sense).

You have to admit, there’s an interesting dynamic at work in New England. Such a move, as we all know, could just as easily have a negative effect on a club. Rather than rallying around one another, the players could go into a group funk and/or lose faith in the team’s decision makers. And truth be known, the Patriots’ initial reaction — in both instances — was a little like that.

After Milloy was released for refusing a pay cut — and led his new club, Buffalo, to a 31-0 victory over New England in the season opener — Patriots cornerback Ty Law said his old pal’s departure was “an obvious distraction.” But the Pats became undistracted in a hurry, winning their last 15 games (and beating Buffalo in the rematch by an identical 31-0 score). Indeed, they proceeded to rack up more consecutive wins than any team in league history (21 over two seasons, including the playoffs).

The trading of Branch to Seattle caused similar hand wringing — especially by Tom Brady, who wondered who exactly he was supposed to throw to. His No. 2 receiver, David Givens, had already left in free agency, and now his No. 1 receiver was being shown the door. “It’s tough because you develop relationships with players,” he said. “Coaches don’t have [the same kind of] relationships with players, and the management doesn’t know what guys are like. … We’re buddies. It goes far beyond the football field. Last week I spent a lot of energy thinking about it, and … it was a big mental drain, and I think it affected the way I played [in the season opener].”

For three weeks the offense struggled as Brady acclimated himself to newcomers Doug Gabriel, Reche Caldwell and Chad Jackson. But then the passing game began to pick up. Monday night against the Vikings, Belichick finally turned his quarterback loose, and Brady had one of the best days of his career. Two of his four touchdown passes, moreover, were to Caldwell and Jackson. Translation: Life goes on.

The Redskins’ brain trust might want to take note of this — inasmuch as the team is 2-5 and playing particularly uninspired ball. In fact, the week of next year’s opener, Dan Snyder should put all his players’ names in a hat, shake vigorously, pull one out and tell the poor guy, “Sorry, but you’re cut.” It’ll probably make the rest of the roster so insecure, so anxious to please, that the Redskins will go up to Giants Stadium and actually score a touchdown.

Snyder could even turn it into a P.R. opportunity. He could let one of the club’s many frustrated fans pull out the name — the fan, perhaps, who submitted the winning entry in the “Why I should be general manager of the Redskins” contest. Dan the Man could fly him into FedEx Field in his helicopter, the Redskinettes could provide the entertainment, the whole deal could be carried on Redskins.com TV — we’re talkin’ major event here. “The Boys from Brazil” bit has worked, after all, for the Boys from New England; maybe it could work for Boys from Washington.

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