Personally I see RDM as a jack of all trades in the sense that I can do a lot of different things depending on the situation and the surroundings. Not everything always. If I am solo I am a beast in every single way, if I am in a larger group I get more of a supportive role or tank (both of which they crushed atm although tanking was nerfed), if I am in a smaller group I get more flexibility in what I do. I was a RDM, BLU and SCH for several years and honestly all I can say is that RDM had everything and I was allowed to use most of it unless I wanted to melee at things like HNM etc.
If all you measure RDM flexibility in is its ability to melee and in how many events it could do it effectively sure then it was not up to snuff so to speak, but honestly to me that is just pigeonholing RDM into something it never was, just something you wanted it to be as well as claiming XI was a very restricted type of game which it never was either. Like I said, I am not saying it was perfect, but I do think they did a great job of making a jack of all trades that fit into the game at basically every level in different ways, just not in every way or a specific way in every situation.
One of the long standing issues was that if you were meleeing, the content was likely inconsequential. This meant you weren't getting good drops. You weren't getting good EXP. The enjoyment of doing so was basically mutually exclusive. That's what I, and others who felt similarly, wanted things to change for so very long. What you perceive in pigeonholing would have, in actuality, been an increase to flexibility. You still could've backlined if that was your thing, but not getting ridiculed out of the party if you didn't was the goal.
If you take the time to go through each expansion and cap increase, you'd find that RDM's gear selection was pretty pathetic in this front. When it came to Zilart, the standout items were a Joyeuse, Peacock Charm, Dusk Gloves/Boots, Scorpion Harness, Amemet +1, Sniper Rings, Suppa, and if you were really lucky/rich, a Speed Belt. This didn't change much with CoP, only adding Brutal Earring, Rajas Ring, and Swift Belt as the poor man's alternative to Speed. If you happened to like the dagger side, Blau was a thing, too. ToAU comes and the only new melee pieces we got were the Goliard Saio and Walahra Turban with their Hastes, the former sacrificing ACC similar to the Rajas/Sniper exchange. WotG was also pretty bleak under the 75 cap. Come 80, we were only on Teal, which was obviously not a melee set. Our weapon options did gain some variety with magian trials, but Joyeuse was still pretty much king. 90 cap, the biggest benefits we saw came through a combination of Composure and Empy+2. Instead of triggering our 30s buff cycle every 2:30, we acquired the luxury of lasting about 3x as long. Gaining 1:30 of swing time is certainly good for the parse, but we're still starting behind other classes when it comes to lower skill ratings, restricted WS, and no melee-related JAs. As an ironic reminder here, the Fencer class never did get the Fencer JT. Go fig. Further, it took a buff to SCH to get our Enspell accuracy more where it should've been with on-cast Enhancing being logged instead of being on-strike. T2 Enspells were still a joke, though. Fast forward to 99 cap and pre-ilvl options were mainly slight upgrades, perhaps sidegrades. After all this, when I assert the job stagnated for the better of a decade, I'm really not kidding.
During the CoP era, getting the Homam set would've been a big deal. When you realize BLU's relic body had Refresh and was a decent melee piece, that did its part in stoking some envy. I guess I forgot Morrigan's body in the above, but Salvage was an event I personally loathed so that doesn't surprise me too much. Still, there wasn't really a melee gear combo where if someone looked at the RDM, they'd think, "I want them in my party!" Nah, consensus usually settled along the lines of, "Not in MY party!" Things are better in ilvl now, particularly with well augmented Taeon and some other buffs, but old habits die hard. Doesn't much help that XI's current endgame also isn't all that melee friendly to begin with. Simplistic ideal: RDMs would open SCs for the heavier hitters and then burst on them to make up the difference, if not exceed it. Maybe I'm just weird in thinking that wasn't too much ask for then and now.