Robert Griffin III entered the NFL as an electric talent with a megawatt smile, boasting highly refined passing skills for a quarterback with 4.4 speed. One year, one knee surgery and one scrutiny-laden offseason and now there's the tiniest hint of doubt in Griffin's style of play.
With his durability in question, Griffin may see the Washington Redskins use him a bit differently in 2013, but that doesn't mean he'll change the way he plays.
It is nearly impossible to make wholesale changes to an athlete's style of play. Mechanics can be tweaked and refined, but the mold for Griffin's development has been set.
Tweaks and refinements don't affect the mindset or the reflex actions, and there is no better example than the brutal hit to the knee Griffin received from Baltimore's Haloti Ngata last season.
Griffin had taken off running, saw he was surrounded by Ravens defenders and executed a sloppy dive to avoid direct contact. The dive resulted in an awkward but no less punishing hit from Ngata that caught Griffin's leg, which caused a violent whipping motion that left RGIII limping and in visible and understandable pain.
It wasn't necessarily a rookie mistake because it wasn't the first—or the last—time Griffin had been in that situation.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, Griffin took the snap out of the shotgun, rolled to the right to escape pressure in his face, briefly thought about throwing it away, took off running and initiated a similarly awkward slide/dive before taking a huge hit that resulted in what was then called a "mild concussion."
Whether it be in Week 5 or Week 13, Griffin made the same mistakes and cost himself the rest of the game while also jeopardizing his future playing career.
As much as they probably want to, the Redskins can't do anything about Griffin running into dangerous situations. It's part of what makes him such a dangerous player: He can turn a busted play into a highlight reel.
Just look at his 76-yard run against the Minnesota Vikings, where he angled towards the sideline, causing the defenders to pull up, before taking off down the sideline for the touchdown.
The difference between the runs that resulted in injuries and the run that resulted in the touchdown is simple.
Against the Falcons and Ravens, Griffin was panicked and looking to make something out of nothing. He was caught off balance and without a proper escape plan.
Against the Vikings, he made a smart move and caught the defenders expecting him to head out of bounds.
In plainer words, Griffin knew what he was doing against Minnesota, but not against the Ravens and Falcons in those instances.
The Redskins would love nothing more than to utilize Griffin's every ability, turning him into the best dual-threat quarterback the NFL has ever seen. But that dual-threat capability comes at a price.
Dual-threat quarterbacks absorb more punishment while running than they would if they were exclusively pocket passers a la Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.
Until Griffin stepped into the spotlight, the majority of so-called "running quarterbacks" lacked the polished passing skills to make it in the NFL once their speed had left them late in their careers.
Michael Vick is a prime example, showcasing amazing speed but missing something in the passing department. He's not the most accurate passer, boasting an underwhelming 56.3 career completion percentage, and he has only ever played in a full 16-game season once in his career.
Vick's running, as much as the abysmal pass protection of the Philadelphia Eagles, has forced him to miss 13 games over the last three seasons alone.
Griffin played in 15 games last season and probably should have missed more to properly recover from his injury before it ended in a full blown ACL/MCL tear.
Washington can make their offense as sterile as possible—at least in terms of protecting Griffin—and he'll still find a way to make their hearts stop in the worst way possible.
Griffin isn't a running quarterback; rather, he is a quarterback who can run. But with the option to run comes to inevitable urge to run, even when it is neither called for nor entirely necessary.
Mike Shanahan and his staff may not look to change Griffin's style of play, but they'd be foolish to think they can let him run wild in the same way that got him injured last season. Make him more of a passer and he'll still run if he can't find an open receiver.
Griffin should never stop running, nor should the Redskins try to rein him in any more than getting him to slide properly.
RGIII is going to do what he is going to do on the field, and it is already apparent that injuries aren't going to deter him from being a little reckless if it means the difference between victory and defeat.
For better or for worse, Griffin isn't going to play it safe, and the Redskins aren't going to handcuff him by limiting him to the pocket. The Redskins knew what they were getting into when they drafted RGIII, and Kirk Cousins is evidence of that.