In the spring of 2009, the Tennessee Titans had recently and disappointingly lost in the playoffs to the Baltimore Ravens. Outside of being a one-and-done in the playoffs, the season had been incredible. The Titans had a 13-3 year, won the AFC South and sported one of the top defenses in the league.
For myself, I wallowed in self-pity until the Jersey snow melted away, and by spring I was back to wearing my Titans gear daily.
On one such day, as I entered a convenience store for my daily coffee, I encountered a guy who immediately gave me the "I'd like to make a comment about something concerning you, but I feel weird, so I'm just going to look at you awkwardly."
I decided that he looked harmless enough so I gave him the proverbial "What's up, bro?"
The conversation went like this:
Him: You a Titans fan?
Me: Heck yeah.
Him: You know Marcus Robertson?
In my head: Who in the blue hell is Marcus Robertson?
Me: No, I don't know him, who is he?
Him: He's the Titans secondary coach. I went to college with him. Titans have one of the best secondaries in the league, he's been right in there with those guys.
Me: I didn't know that, man; that's pretty cool that you know him.
The conversation ended when one of us had to go and check out, but the guy was pleased to run into a fan who could appreciate his story so far away from relevancy (New Jersey).
The truth is, I was a little embarrassed that I was such a huge fan and didn't know who the secondary coach was.
Marcus Robertson became a symbol of all that I didn't know about the Titans. I quickly went to work finding out who the coaches were and what they were about.
From that point on, when I heard the name Marcus Robertson, I'd think to myself, "I met a guy who knew that guy in college."
At parties I'd say "You guys know who Marcus Robertson is? No? Let me tell you a story. So I walk into this convenience store..."
OK, OK, so I might not have gone that far, but the conversation I had with Robertson's college friend opened my eyes about how much I didn't know. Next time some random guy asked me about a Titans employee, I would be ready.
For most likely the last time, I did my Robertson ritual. I did meet a guy he knew in college once, and unfortunately for him, Marcus Robertson is no longer employed by the Tennessee Titans.
On Jan. 4, 2012, head coach Mike Munchak pulled the trigger and fired Robertson along with the assistant secondary coach Curtis Fuller.
Robertson spent a total of 19 seasons with the Titans organization. He worked in the front office, was a player for the Oilers and most recently was the secondary coach.
Fuller only spent one season with the Titans, but the fact remains that he is attached to Robertson, and their work is no longer needed.
Munchak said this to NFL.com regarding the firing: "I respect both men, but I wanted to move in a different direction for both of these spots."
The tone has been set
Let's set one thing straight: This is not a typical Tennessee Titans move. When I say "typical Tennessee Titans move," what I really mean is that this is not a Jeff Fisher-type move, and, for the first time, it feels like the Titans are moving in a new direction.
Since 2009, the Titans defense has not been anything close to a dominating unit. Consistently, players like Michael Griffin and Chris Hope have made questionable plays. As this offseason kicks off, Munchak made a statement, saying, "We are no longer accepting mediocre play in the secondary."
It is highly likely the entire unit will be revamped in 2012. With Griffin, Hope, Jordan Babineaux and Cortland Finnegan all set to become free agents, and with these two coaches being fired, the Titans defense has been put on alert. It's put-up-or-shut-up time in Tennessee.
More than just the personnel changes and the obvious statement in all of this that Munchak is serious about winning and that for the first time a decision to get better is being made. Gone are the days of riding with a coach who is obviously not getting the job done. It was excruciating watching Norm Chow fail at being the Titans offensive coordinator. Jeff Fisher kept him around a season too long, and still people were surprised when Chow got his walking papers.
The same can be said for player decisions. If Fisher were the head coach, do we really believe half of the current Titans free agents would be walking? Players like Griffin, Hope and Finnegan would be automatic re-ups, and the two coaches that were fired would most likely be commended for being "consistent."
Of course, most of that is subjective, but the general idea behind it is that Munchak isn't letting personnel get comfortable following a 9-7 season. This is what the fans want to see. Far too often it felt as though Jeff Fisher were content in second place, and these decisions by Munchak make it clear that he is not content with second place. He is not content with 9-7.
The tone has been set for the 2012 offseason by Mike Munchak. Let's see how this plays out heading into training camp next summer.