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Titans must find QB whisperer for Marcus Mariota

The Ken Whisenhunt era is history in Tennessee, but the Titans can't lose sight of what matters most: The development of Marcus Mariota.

The team's rookie quarterback now sits at the center of a challenging transition in Nashville. Onto his second head coach in less than a half a season, Mariota will sip a cup of coffee with interim fill-in Mike Mularkey before the Titans hand-pick their leader of the future.

It's a rocky road for any rookie passer to endure -- just ask Blaine Gabbert.

As a first-round signal-caller for the Jaguars in 2011, Gabbert saw head coach Jack Del Rio axed 11 games into his rookie season. Defensive aide Mel Tucker finished the campaign before Jacksonville hired Mularkey -- only to fire him after one season. Gus Bradley took the reins from there, marking Gabbert's fourth head coach in 14 months. He's a starter again as of last night in San Francisco, but Gabbert's career was doomed from the start by the organizational chaos swirling around him.

The Titans must provide Mariota with a smoother transition centered around a concentrated hunt for the right head coach. It's certainly not Mularkey, and Tennessee can't go down that road no matter what unfolds over the next nine games.

Hiring an offensive-minded teacher who can build the attack around Mariota's gifts is priority No. 1 in Tennessee. Plenty of names come to mind: Frank Reich in San Diego, Hue Jackson in Cincinnati, Adam Gase in Chicago, Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta and Josh McDaniels in New England. Each of them stand out as proven quarterback tutors with creative approaches to running an offense.

The Titans must unearth a quarterback-friendly coach, something Whisenhunt failed to be. After all the bluster about his past success with Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger, Whiz left far too many young passers by the side of the road.

Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk didn't want that same fate for Mariota -- and it's hard to disagree with her assessment after watching Whiz stumble to a 3-20 record in Tennessee and a 4-31 mark over his last 35 games. The timing, though, is tricky. 

The Titans are starting over -- again -- and their next hire looms as the most important decision this franchise has made since leaving Houston. If Adams and Co. select the right young coach to pair with their promising first-round passer -- the sky's the limit in Nashville.

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