Most NFL fans will agree that in the last two seasons, Xavier Rhodes has regressed from his former All-Pro playing level. Rhodes, cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings, was once considered one of the best lockdown corners in the league. He had a career season in 2016, intercepting five passes and batting down 11. The year after, Rhodes had another solid season, earning him a ticket to the First-Team All-Pro roster. By 2017, Rhodes had 60 passes defended in his five-year career, along with 10 tackles for loss and nine interceptions. Things were shaping up nicely before they all went downhill.
In 2019, Rhodes played like one of the league’s worst corners, allowing a whopping 81.5 percent of all passes to be caught and a 123.8 passer rating when targeted. The once-loyal Minnesota Vikings fans began to call him names like “Burnt Toast” and nearly started a riot when he was listed as a Pro Bowl alternate. What might have caused this intense decline? Some argue it’s age, as he’s not as fast or athletic as he used to be. Additionally, numerous nagging injuries limited his level of play in 2019. While that might be true, the most logical explanation that many have overlooked is a certain coach. A man named Jonathan Gannon.
Gannon was the Minnesota Vikings’ assistant defensive backs/cornerbacks coach from 2014-2017. In those four seasons, Rhodes accumulated nine interceptions. By comparison, Rhodes only recorded one interception during three seasons without Gannon on the sideline. Additionally, Rhodes has not had a season with double digit passes defended since Gannon’s departure. Clearly there is a connection between the two that boosts how Rhodes performs, but why would this matter? What does this have to do with Rhodes bouncing back to his All-Pro form? In 2018, Gannon joined the coaching staff of the Indianapolis Colts. He serves as the lead defensive back/cornerback coach to this day.
Reuniting Rhodes with Gannon was a smart choice by the Colts. With little money spent on his one year deal, the Colts are giving Rhodes a second chance in the NFL without much risk. Rhodes has a higher chance of regaining his past status of “lockdown corner” on the Colts with Gannon as his leader than with any other team in the league because of the beneficial connection between the player and coach. There’s a higher chance that “Rhodes are closed” in Indianapolis this year than some might think.