If President Reagan assumed command of the Redskins, he would call Rich Milot his peacekeeper. The right linebacker and some other, ah, defensive missiles have been deployed spectacularly of late, attacking Giants quarterbacks from every part of RFK Stadium.
Possibly, this is the result of a grand plot by the Armory Board and the Redskins. All that fuss about silly sod just may have been a ruse, to keep NFL teams from discovering the real reason for tearing up nearly the entire field immediately after the loss to Dallas three weeks ago.
Silos were being built underground, from which quarterback-seeking Milots would be fired for the rest of the season and playoffs. Think not? Surely, you also find it impossible to believe that a field used only a half-dozen times all year could be allowed to waste away.
The Redskins insist otherwise.
They claim Milot's three-sack, one-fumble-recovery show against New York last week was the logical conclusion to a maturation process that began years ago at Penn State. Joe Paterno even testifies for them, saying he sensed all along that Milot would become a star once he found a permanent pro position.
Until Tex Schramm uncovers evidence to the contrary, we'll have to take their word.
It is plausible.
Even a phenom who once scored four touchdowns in one half against Redskins' mate Russ Grimm's team in high school could get lost in that late 1970s State galaxy. During Milot's four years, he kept company with Matt Millen, Bruce Clark, Keith Dorney, Booker Moore, Mike Munchak, Sean Farrell, Matt Suhey, Irv Pankey, Chris Bahr, Jim Romano, Leo Wisniewski and a half-dozen others who were drafted after the second round.
On the seventh round of the '79 draft, Bobby Beathard decided Milot was good enough to crack a shaky Redskin defense. Where he did was at one of the few positions Milot never manned as a Lion -- linebacker. At Linebacker U., Milot played everywhere else anyone 6 feet 4 and shy of 220 pounds could.
Fullback and tailback, cornerback, defensive end and, finally, something called hero, which is a kind of strong safety. He continued to roam with the Redskins, starting the first regular-season game of his career at the position, three years later, he claims as his own.
In between, he also was in the middle. That was bad. Too many blockers yipping at him from all directions, too much of a tendency to overrun the action. To have been left at left linebacker would have been all right. Somewhere, anywhere longer than a few months. Nothing can blossom without roots.
Now Milot is using those two special Is, intellect and instinct, to great advantage. He is not bragging, merely stating a fact, when he casually admits: "I seem to know sometimes where the ball is going before it's snapped."
Against the Giants, for instance, Milot saw a man move in motion his way and calculated he would dash upfield and set a pick for a back on a short-yardage pass play. So Milot sidestepped the blocker and got where the back was supposed to be.
"The quarterback looked my way," he said, "pumped and then tried to go somewhere else in a hurry. I think we might have sacked him."
Had Scott Brunner and the halfback had time to think, an adjusted pattern straight upfield would have yielded lots more yardage than the planned play Milot foiled. In a game of constant guesses, he'd won.
"That's why good defensive players are good," he said. "They can anticipate. That comes from preparation. When they make a big play, lots of times it's because they knew where it was going."
Can't offenses anticipate this? Can't they say: we know you know what we've done from this formation on that down and distance, so we'll do something different next time?
"You can change only so much in a week," he said. "Every team has something you can hang your hat on, what they will do from a certain formation, certain types of motion." Redskins offensive minds might perk up now, for from the 20-yard line in, they also may be telegraphing their punches. That and running John Riggins into the ground.
"Hopefully, he can last the season," said Dave Butz. "You can use him only so much. Eventually, he's got to break."
That's sort of what the rest of the league thinks about the Redskins' defense. It's been bent so often during this 6-1 season that ends in two weeks; sometime it's got to break.
With Milot and Mel Kaufman from the outside linebackers, Tony Peters and Mark Murphy from the safeties, Neal Olkewicz from the middle, maybe even squire Jack Kent Cooke from the owner's slab of concrete, the Redskins will continue to blitz at a fearsome rate.
Whether the legendary Guido Merkens, or a patched-up Ken Stabler, can find a way to counter that mad rush will be known later today in New Orleans. A bum thumb took the hop from Brunner's fast ball last week. Milot is familiar, although not enthralled, with the Superdome.
He thinks Penn State played the first football game there, losing to Alabama in the '75 Sugar Bowl; he knows Penn State lost the national championship there in the '79 Sugar Bowl, when Alabama held twice from the one with seven minutes left.
Now, Paterno won't have Bear Bryant to kick him around any more.
Milot's 55-yard interception was one of the few sweet State moments of the '79 Sugar Bowl. The Redskins are anxious for more. Something even approaching the time Milot's high school team faced Grimm's their senior season would be nice.
With three long interception returns and two 66-yard runs from scrimmage, Moon Township's Milot dashed into the Southmoreland end zone the first half that day. A penalty ruined one of the efforts.
"Like the Pony Express that day," Grimm yelled from across the Redskins' dressing room the other day. "Everything from long distance."