(Reuters) - A little over two years ago, Robert Griffin III embarked on his rookie season in the National Football League under a heavy weight of expectation as a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.
The player nicknamed RG3 rose impressively to the occasion as he led the Washington Redskins to a division title with a 10-6 mark before injuring his knee in a playoff loss to Seattle that required surgery and extensive rehabilitation.
Fast forward to this week and it has become a very different story for the injury-plagued Griffin who has been demoted to the bench by Redskins coach Jay Gruden with Colt McCoy set to start at quarterback against Indianapolis on Sunday.
Though this represents a stunning fall from grace for Griffin, a Pro Bowl selection in 2012 when he was voted the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year, Gruden said on Wednesday the 24-year-old was still part of the team’s long-range plans.
“If you don’t produce, then you have to maybe take a step back,” Gruden said on a conference call after announcing that Griffin would be the backup quarterback against the Colts in Indianapolis.
“It doesn’t mean you’re out of the league forever, it doesn’t mean you’re out of graces, it means that we’re just going to give another guy an opportunity and go from there.”
McCoy, a five-year NFL veteran out of Texas, has played well in two games this season for Washington.
He replaced Kirk Cousins and led the Redskins to a 19-17 win over Tennessee on Oct. 19, then started against Dallas the following week and completed 25 of 30 passes for 299 yards in a 20-17 overtime victory.
Griffin, who played for Baylor University where he won the 2011 Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding college football player, has gone 4-14 as a starter for the Redskins since the start of the 2013 season.
Since he returned on Nov. 2 against Minnesota after being sidelined by an ankle injury, Washington have gone 0-3.
Renowned for being a running threat and strong-armed passer when taken by the Redskins with the second pick of the 2012 draft, Griffin has struggled as a traditional pocket-passer.
“We just want him to take a step back, work on his craft a little bit more ... so the next time he’s in there he’s raring to go and has a little more faith and confidence in what he sees,” said Gruden.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue