Black History Month: Ray Rhodes, 49ers first Black defensive coordinator

Ray Rhodes (Photo by Getty Images)
Ray Rhodes (Photo by Getty Images) /

Throughout Black History Month we’ve profiled some pivotal Black players and coaches in San Francisco 49ers franchise history. And we have one final profile before the month is over.

This week, we profile the first Black defensive coordinator of the 49ers, Ray Rhodes. He began his career as a player and ended up in the coaching world. He also ended up making history along the way.

Rhodes was born on Oct. 20, 1950, in Mexia, Texas. He would go on to play at Texas Christian University and then transfer to the University of Tulsa. There he played wide receiver and cornerback.

He would be selected in the 10th round (236th overall) by the New York Giants in the 1974 NFL Draft, and he would play for the Giants for six seasons before being traded to the Niners in 1980, the team he would end up coaching.

Rhodes’ one season with San Francisco would be his final season as a player. He would then join their coaching staff in 1981 as an assistant defensive backs coach. That year, the 49ers would go on to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Rhodes would become the defensive backs coach of the team in 1983. He would coach in that capacity through the 1991 season, winning four Super Bowls in the process. In 1992, he would get hired as the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator.

Ray Rhodes helps bring 49ers yet another Super Bowl

After two seasons with the Packers, he would return to the Niners in 1994 as their defensive coordinator, making him the franchise’s first Black defensive coordinator.

Rhodes would help lead San Francisco to an NFL-best 13-3 record that season. In the process, he coached the defense of the 49ers to a top-10 finish.

Additionally, cornerback Deion Sanders would go on to lead the NFL in interception return yards (303) and interception return touchdowns (three) en route to winning Defensive Player of the Year.

Rhodes would help lead the Niners to a 49-26 victory in Super Bowl XXIX, making them the first franchise with five Super Bowl victories.

Read More: Ranking the top 10 49ers teams of all time

After the Super Bowl victory, Rhodes was hired as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach for the 1995 season.

This hiring would make Rhodes only the fourth Black head coach in NFL history. He would coach the Eagles for four seasons.

Ray Rhodes’ coaching stints after leaving 49ers

In his first season, he would lead the Eagles to 10-6 records, making the playoffs and winning the Coach of the Year Award. His team however would lose to the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs that season.

After a disappointing 3-13 finish to the 1998 NFL season, he would be fired by the Eagles but get another head coaching gig with the Packers. Unfortunately, that would be his one and only season with the team after finishing 8-8.

Rhodes would bounce around several additional teams in the league as a defensive coordinator and assistant coach. His last stop would be with the Cleveland Browns in 2012 as a senior defensive assistant.

Although his head coaching career never took off the way it should’ve, Rhodes was such an important assistant coach in 49ers’ lore. He was with the team through all five Super Bowl victories.

Most of all though, he made history as the first Black defensive coordinator in 49ers’ franchise history, and he should be honored and remembered for that.

dark. Next. Black History Month: Joe ‘The Jet’ Perry, 49ers first Black player