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Struggling RG3 benched again: Redskins to start Colt McCoy vs. Indianapolis on Sunday

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ASHBURN, Virginia — Robert Griffin III mingled in the locker room and made small talk about shoes and food.

No sense talking about football, not when a player who once could do no wrong has been benched for the second time in two years.

The Redskins will start Colt McCoy over Griffin on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, the latest development in a stunning tailspin for the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

First-year coach Jay Gruden said McCoy will be given "every opportunity" to hold the job for the final five games of the season.

"We're searching for answers on offense," Gruden said. "And it starts at the quarterback position, quite frankly."

Now it's a question as to whether RG3 is done for good in Washington, and whether he'll develop the skills necessary to succeed as a pocket-passer in the NFL.

The Redskins (3-8) are 0-3 since he returned from an ankle injury and have scored only one touchdown in each of the past two games.

The former No. 2 overall draft pick seemed poised to revolutionize the quarterback position with his arm and legs when he led Washington to the playoffs two years ago, but he is 4-14 as a starter since the start of the 2013 season and has struggled to adjust his game.

"We just want him to take a step back, work on his craft a little bit more, study the game a little bit more," Gruden said.

Griffin will serve as the No. 2 quarterback on Sunday. Although he chatted informally with reporters Wednesday, he made no comment about Gruden's decision.

The Redskins have not permitted Griffin to speak publicly at various times this season, but a team spokesman said it was Griffin's decision to remain silent this time.

Gruden has had plenty to say, much of it quite candid, about Griffin's development. The coach was particularly brutal a week ago, citing "fundamental flaws" after an abysmal performance in a 20-point loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Griffin followed that up by throwing for just 106 yards in a 17-13 defeat against the San Francisco.

This is the fourth quarterback change made by Gruden this year. The coach called it a "merry-go-around," but it's almost par for the course for the Redskins, who have used 24 starters since 1993. The lack of continuity has its price — they've missed the playoffs in 18 of those 22 seasons.

And now they might have to start over yet again at the sport's most important position. They gave up three first-round picks in order to move up and select Griffin in the 2012 draft, a trade that had serious ramifications because it kept Washington from filling other vital needs in subsequent drafts.

The team will have to decide in the upcoming offseason whether to pick up a fifth-year option on Griffin's contract. That now seems unlikely, but Gruden nevertheless said he hasn't given up on the 24-year-old QB.

"For Robert to take a step back and be a backup quarterback is not the end of the world," Gruden said. "It's happened to great quarterbacks in the past. It will happen again. ... Doesn't mean he's not going to be a great quarterback one day, here or somewhere else or whatever."

PHOTO: Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) runs from San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith (99) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) runs from San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith (99) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

The timing is particularly humiliating for Griffin because it comes as the Redskins are preparing to face the Colts and Andrew Luck, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick ahead of Griffin. The two will always be compared, but their paths have diverged incredibly since their rookie season.

Griffin was benched for the final three games last year as the season spiraled to a 3-13 finish under then-coach Mike Shanahan. He has also suffered two major leg injuries, a torn ACL in his right knee as a rookie and a dislocated left ankle this year.

The injuries have played a part in Griffin's desire to become a pass-first quarterback, rather than the dual-threat player who rushed for 815 yards as a rookie.

The ankle problem caused Griffin to miss six games and hindered his work with Gruden. But there had already been signs in training camp that he was having trouble with basics such as footwork and downfield reads.

Kirk Cousins took over after Griffin was hurt in the first quarter of the Week 2 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he lost his next four starts and proved to be turnover-prone. He was benched at halftime in favor of McCoy against the Tennessee Titans, and McCoy rallied the Redskins to a 19-17 win, then to a Monday night upset of the Dallas Cowboys.

Despite McCoy's success, Gruden went back to Griffin the following week — and the Redskins haven't won since.

"If we reversed the clock, obviously knowing what we know now, I'd stick with Colt," Gruden said.

For the season, Griffin has completed 70 percent of his passes, but he has only two touchdowns and three interceptions and has been sacked 20 times in five starts. His passer rating is 85.7.

McCoy joined the Redskins this season in need of a job in his fifth year in the league, willing to be a third-stringer behind Griffin and Cousins. He went more than two years between NFL starts, but he has completed 86 percent of his passes (36 for 42) in his two games with Washington this season.

Even with such numbers to back it up, the move is a bold one for Gruden, a rookie coach trying to get a handle on a struggling franchise. Asked why he isn't using the final five games to give Griffin more chances to develop, Gruden answered: "I think there's a case for that, but there's also a case that Colt is 2-0."

Gruden said he discussed the move with owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen.

"I think ultimately it's the coach's decision, but they're on board," Gruden said. "Had they been adamant and said, 'No, play him,' I don't know what would have happened."


AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.


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