I got the chance to sit down with Titans Secondary Coach, Marcus Robertson, after Thursday's practice.
As a player, Robertson had a 12-year career, including 10 years with the Oilers/Titans. He was originally drafted by the Houston Oilers in the fourth round of the 1991 draft.
Robertson was named first team All-Pro free safety in 1993 and 1997. He played in 157 games (144 starts) with 851 tackles, 24 interceptions and 1.5 sacks.
Robertson is in his 18th season with the Titans/Oilers organization as a player, coach and front office member. In 2009, he was inducted into the Iowa State Athletic Hall of Fame.
TitanInsider: You started out in player development, was coaching always in the plans?
Marcus Robertson: I knew I wanted to coach after about the fifth or sixth year in the league. I'm a big follower of high school sports and I had the opportunity to sit down with Rob Perry. At that time, his son was Rodney was in college and we used to always talk California high school sports. One day he brought me into his office, where he was evaluating players, and he gave me the chance to sit down and evaluate Sam Madison. He then asked me what I thought about his ability. What proceeded from there is, I started coming to his office everyday after workouts and he started to show me how to evaluate talent. That's when I started to gain a little more of a liking for evaluating players. I've always been attention to detail, so I knew early on that coaching was going to be something I was interested in.
TitanInsider: What are the differences in playing under Jeff Fisher and coaching under Jeff Fisher?
Marcus Robertson: He's definately a players coach. One thing I loved about Jeff Fisher, we were a well prepared football team. We went into a game and knew everything that team was going to do, and when there were things we hadn't seen on film, we would come to the sidelines and make adjustments with Jerry Gray and Gregg Williams.
On the coaching side, the one thing I can say about Jeff Fisher, he lets us coach. If we're doing something wrong or unacceptable, then he'll step in but for the most part he trust us and lets us coach. He knows we're very experienced at what we do and knowledgeable of what we're teaching and lets us do that and I can appreciate that.
TitanInsider: What's changed from last year to this year with Michael Griffin?
Marcus Robertson: I can't say 100 percent, but he was coming off a Pro Bowl season, and sometimes you can get a little bit comfortable. Not only him but as a whole, we started to lose our technique, and technique is the foundation of what you do. So, anytime your foundation doesn't have the right structure, at some point in time, things are going to start to fall apart. During the course of the season, especially the early part of last year, we came in and talked about it after the bye week. We got back to the basics, and we've been a much better team since week 7 of last season.
TitanInsider: When a starter [McCourty] goes down in the middle of a game and you have to replace him with a rookie [Verner], does that change your approach?
Marcus Robertson: No, not all. We tell every single defensive back or defensive player they have to prepare as if they are a starter, because you're one play away from being in the football game. Given the situation last week when J-Mac went down, I went over and looked at Verner and said, 'hey, you ready to go, you know what you're going to get, don't be surprised if they attack you.' The bottom line, since OTAs, Vern has been absolutely fantastic. He's a knowledgeable guy of the game, a student of the game, and plays with excellent technique. He's a fearless player, that takes calculated risks but is a really good football player.
TitanInsider: What would you like to see Alterraun Verner get better at?
Marcus Robertson: [Laughs] The number one thing would be to see him get some experience, and to get that experience at the end of the day while being victorious. Sometimes you have to take your lumps with the young fellas but for the most part, Vern has an excellent feel for the game. He takes time to film study, he asks all the right questions and leaves no stone unturned. When he goes into the game, he will be very prepared.
TitanInsider: Do you think Finnegan is being targeted by the officials?
Marcus Robertson: [Pause] Not necessarily, Cortland may be targeted by the opposing team. He's a scrappy type of player, he reminds a lot of a guy I played with in Blaine Bishop. Cortland plays with a passion and a fire for the game, and you have to love that as a coach. You have to let him during the course of a game do what he does, because that's the way he plays a football game. The good thing about it is, he executes the defense the way it was designed to play, and he plays his heart out. I wish I had eleven other guys like him.
TitanInsider: Do you have a problem with Finnegan saying he wants to be the dirtiest player in the league?
Marcus Robertson: No, not at all. The only problem I have is to make sure it's within the rules of the game. Getting personal fouls is when you're crossing the line, and then you're starting to hurt the team. If you're playing with aggressive nature and getting after guys and getting to the football, that's what we want on this team.
TitanInsider: How much do you lean on a guy like Chris Hope, because of his experience?
Marcus Robertson: I lean on his leadership ability. He has done a great job of keeping guys together. There was a time where the meeting room was a mess, but guys respect him and his leadership and now they're buying in. We know to have a successful secondary, we have to have a cohesive secondary, and he's the glue to keeping it all together.
TitanInsider: Who was the toughest receiver you ever went up against as a player?
Marcus Robertson: It was more of a combination of Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith along with Mark Brunell, and that rivalry we had with Jacksonville. They had this chemistry. It seemed liked they always knew what we were playing and they always had an adjustment to what we were doing. It was always a mental challenge, we were trying to one up them and they were trying to one up us. That trio right there was pretty special.
TitanInsider: What was your best memory as a player, in this organization?
Marcus Robertson: My fondest years, were my first three years in the league. I played with three Hall of Famers in Warren Moon, Bruce Matthews and Mike Munchak. We also had the 'run and shoot" with wide receivers like Ernest Givins, Hayward Jeffries and Drew Hill. The defense side of the ball had Al Smith, William Fuller and Ray Childress, we had a very elite group of guys. That was a fun time. The most disappointing thing is, we had a Super Bowl team in that three year span but never got there.
Also, the championship game against Jacksonville down there. Playing that trio (Brunell, J.Smith, McCardell) again and beating them for the third time in the same season, and doing something that's never been done before, and launch us to the Super Bowl was pretty special. And I have to say the Super Bowl, even though I didn't get to participate, it's something I want to get back to.