Rod photoreceptors generate measurable responses to single-photon activation of individual molecules of the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), rhodopsin. Timely rhodopsin desensitization depends on phosphorylation and arrestin binding, which quenches G protein activation. Rhodopsin phosphorylation has been measured biochemically at C-terminal serine residues, suggesting that these residues are critical for producing fast, low-noise responses. The role of native threonine residues is unclear. We compared single-photon responses from rhodopsin lacking native serine or threonine phosphorylation sites. Contrary to expectation, serine-only rhodopsin generated prolonged step-like single-photon responses that terminated abruptly and randomly, whereas threonine-only rhodopsin generated responses that were only modestly slower than normal. We show that the step-like responses of serine-only rhodopsin reflect slow and stochastic arrestin binding. Thus, threonine sites play a privileged role in promoting timely arrestin binding and rhodopsin desensitization. Similar coordination of phosphorylation and arrestin binding may more generally permit tight control of the duration of GPCR activity.