Samantha Fillerup: The season before you arrived in San Diego (2005), the Bolts ranked No. 28 versus the pass. Your first year there, that ranking leaped to No. 13. How did you help make that happen?
Marlon McCree: It was a difficult situation when I first got to San Diego. I didn't make a lot of friends my first year after coming over from Carolina, a team that had been to the NFC Championship the season prior. A big part of that success in Carolina was that the players held each other accountable. No coach had to say anything. If a guy missed a tackle or if a guy blew an assignment, he would get his butt chewed out and his lunch handed to him right there on the sideline from the veterans. And that's what made us so good. We didn't have any bickering among the players or towards the coaches because the coaches really didn't say anything. We coached ourselves.
I took that same philosophy to San Diego and I ruffled some feathers early on. But I was holding guys accountable because we had talent. We had first-round draft picks and second-round draft picks, we had athletic ability galore, but guys were blowing coverages. They were missing assignments; they were not taking their jobs seriously. So I came in with that player-accountability side of it and -- although it was rough in the beginning -- it paid off. It could have been a top-10 secondary had some things gone differently. But we went from 28 to 13 and I do rest my hat on that.
Guys like Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence, I couldn't have done it without them because they had to buy in. Antonio Cromartie was a rookie; it was very hard to tell Cromartie anything. But he eventually began to believe in what we were doing.
SF: You obviously worked closely Jammer and Cromartie. Do you believe they have the ability to form the top cornerback tandem in the NFL?
FS Marlon McCree
SF: Describe your most memorable game or moment from your time in San Diego.
MM: My most memorable game would have to be the Cincinnati Bengals game in 2006. We won that game, 49-41. We were down at halftime, 28-7. We were on the road and we did everything the wrong way the first half. We could not stop their offense. They were moving the ball. Eventually, our offense got hot and we started moving the ball. We ended up tying the game. We just kept going back and forth, touchdown for touchdown. In the fourth quarter, I told my defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, I just have to take a shot on one of these guys. They are catching the ball all over the place. He said, "Well, go do what you've got to do."
T.J. Houshmandzadeh came across the middle and I knew they were going to call a personal foul on me, but I hit him, knocked his helmet off and knocked him out of the game. The rest of that game -- there was like five minutes left -- no receiver wanted to catch the ball. They were so afraid to come across the middle again.
They had some catchable balls that they could have completed -- Chris Henry dropped a couple; Houshmandzadeh didn't come back; and Chad Johnson dropped one or two. It just made all the difference in the world just to send that message at that point in the game. We won there on the road. It was a close, high-scoring game and that game means a lot to me because we came back from a 21-point deficit.
SF: You played for San Diego and Denver in 2007 and 2008, respectively. How do you compare those two AFC West rivals?
FS Marlon McCree
I think Denver has some young guys that just need to play a little bit more, get some more experience and get the confidence and believe in themselves that they can play and beat anybody. It's not a matter of ability; it's a matter of belief in themselves.
SF: The Chargers seem to have the Indianapolis Colts' number, having beaten them in four of the last five meetings, including twice in 2007 when you were patrolling the secondary. How were you able to pull that off?
MM: My advice has always been to play mistake-free football, get all of our mistakes out at camp and in the preseason. To beat Peyton Manning, you have to get a lot of guys in his face and play mistake-free in the secondary. That's what we were able to do in San Diego. We were able to come off the edge in that 3-4 defense with Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips and we played mistake-free in the secondary. We knew with some defenses they would get deep comebacks and curl routes and slants across the middle, but when we had the opportunity to take shots, we took shots. We made them pay for it.
I got a big hit on Reggie Wayne [in the playoff game following the '07 season] and we were able to win the game off of that play. They used their final timeout in the two-minute situation and they needed it. We didn't do anything special; we played the same defense we had played all year long. We didn't try and do anything unique. We just played our defense and it came right into our hands.
SF: Which Chargers players are you still close with?
MM: I still keep in contact with Darren Sproles. LaDainian Tomlinson and I go to the same church, as does [former Charger] Marques Harris. I was at Quentin Jammer's 30th birthday party in Vegas back in June. I don't talk much with those guys, but we all kind of have a lot of love and respect for each other.
Stephen Cooper lives right around the corner from me; Sproles is down the street from me; and Jacques Cesaire lives down the street from me. There's a bunch of guys that live near about where I live and we all see each other in passing and we have a lot of mutual respect there.