A dress rehearsal revealed the emperor may have no clothes.
Robert Griffin III looked awful during his final preseason tune-up in Washington's 23-17 loss at Baltimore Aug. 23. He hesitated, made late throws, committed two turnovers and nearly threw a pick-six.
Statues are more mobile than the quarterback once known for his speed.
Something is clearly wrong. Griffin was 13 of 20 for 141 yards and two interceptions during the preseason. Even worse, Washington's starting offense scored zero touchdowns in 10 drives during three games. In the only "real" preseason test when playing into the third quarter against Baltimore, Griffin showed no rhythm in his motion and hesitated when releasing the ball.
Coach Jay Gruden said Griffin is doing fine, that there's no quarterback controversy, despite Kirk Cousins playing well enough against reserves for former Redskins great and announcer Joe Theismann to urge a change.
That would be silly. The Redskins are tied to Griffin for a couple more years after giving up three first- and a second-round picks to the St. Louis Rams to draft the quarterback. Given the fact Griffin was the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year; Washington knows he's not a bust.
But the Redskins need to quickly decide if Griffin can truly become a pocket passer or simply let him be a freewheeling scrambler. The risk in letting Griffin roam the field is injury. He still can't slide, and will likely get hurt. After two knee injuries, the next could be career-ending. Then again, every player is one snap away from seeing the exit.
The upside to Griffin being his 2012 self is he'll win that way. He may only win for a few seasons, but they could be really good seasons. As a pocket passer, who knows if he'll ever be any good, and certainly not as good as when he is mobile.
The pocket isn't exactly a safe haven, though. On one snap against Baltimore, four Washington linemen were pushed back. Griffin was smothered by a wall of his own bodyguards. The line isn't built for 5-7 second protections.
Gruden won't play the starters during the final game at Tampa Bay Aug. 28, and that's too bad, because the offense needs all the work it can get. Gruden says practice tells him Griffin is improving. A game would be a better test, though.
The problem is Washington gets no grace period at the season's start when it opens at Houston before hosting Jacksonville. Those might be the two easiest games on the schedule, but also possible losses if the Redskins aren't ready. An 0-2 hole before meeting a good team probably seals a losing season. Given the fact the defense and special teams look better than last year, Washington has a chance in a mediocre NFC East for a playoff spot, but not if it starts 0-2 against two poor teams.
Griffin needs to get better in a hurry. It's another strange chapter in what was once an expected storied career.