The Old Mixer wrote:
I think part of the problem was that they oversold the character from the get-go...he'd already turned down one command to take the first officer position on the Enterprise, and was given the opportunity to turn down a second as early as Season 2. If they'd wanted to keep him in his position without making it seem like he wasn't growing, they should have had him still striving to prove that he was ready for the big chair...maybe even give him a tarnish on his record that he was trying to make up for. There'd be no need for a Tom Riker solution if Will Riker had been given somewhere to go in the first place.
If "The Pegasus" had been written earlier, that may have provided the black mark you're talking about. Maybe an earlier fallout from those events sees Riker demoted with Data (or Shelby) taking over as first officer. Riker eventually regains Picard's trust and is reinstated as his right hand, but only after proving that he's capable of making difficult decisions without comprising Starfleet regulations.
The new-and-improved Riker carries himself with much greater humility and makes an effort to befriend junior officers like Lavelle or Sito rather than ostracizing them because of poor performance or inexperience.