Who’s to blame for Denver’s offensive line woes?

Before John Fox was essentially fired, before we learned the extent of Peyton Manning's injury, and before their season ended on Sunday, there were already several big offseason questions facing the Broncos.

There was the status of Adam Gase and Jack Del Rio. The free agency of Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Terrance Knighton, Orlando Franklin, and Rahim Moore. Von Miller's contract. The state of the offensive line.

On second thought, the offensive line may have been Denver's hottest burning question before Sunday. Put simply, the group was largely terrible in 2014.

Yes, Manning was sacked just 17 times, at the lowest rate in the league (2.8%). But that's more a reflection of how quickly Peyton got rid of the ball, than the quality of his blocking.

From left to right:

- By his own lofty standards, Ryan Clady had a very poor year, although he does have the excuse of having missed most of 2013 with a Lisfranc injury serious enough to require surgery.

- The move of Orlando Franklin to left guard, where he replaced Zane Beadles, worked out. After some early struggles, Franklin ended up having the best season of Denver's linemen.

- Will Montgomery stepped in for a scuffling Manny Ramirez. That change also coincided with Denver's newfound commitment to running the ball, and run blocking is Montgomery's strength.

- Ramirez shifted back over to right guard, where he'd started in 2012. As in 2012, his results were mixed. After a breakout 2013 season at center, he was awful there in 2014, prompting the change to Montgomery.

- Louis Vasquez slid over to tackle from his familiar right guard position, and (expectedly and understandably) wasn't nearly as effective.

As we all know, the rightward move of Ramirez and Vasquez wasn't just about Manny's problems at the pivot, though. Mostly, it was a solution to the disastrous play at right tackle by Chris Clark and Paul Cornick. Clark, of course, had done a commendable job of replacing Clady in 2013. But in no way did his success translate over to the right side.

The free agent signings of DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward got all the headlines last offseason, but putting Clark at right tackle was just as important a move. Unlike the former three, it didn't even come close to panning out for the Broncos.

So who's to blame for that catastrophe? Honestly, I don't know. I do, however, think it's important to consider as the Broncos move forward into this offseason.

If the idea came from John Fox and his trusty line coach, Dave Magazu - or if John Elway (or Matt Russell or Tom Heckert) suggested the possibility, and Fox and Magazu signed off on it - then it's water under the bridge.

But what if the decision belongs entirely to Elway and his lieutenants? It's been reported that a source of Fox's discontent was his inability to buy the groceries, as Bill Parcells puts it.

As personnel moves and non-moves go, Elway's record has been pretty much free of fatal errors. But thinking that Clark would be okay on the right side is one of his worst, and it may have played a large role in Denver's struggles this year.

Chances are, we'll never find out who was behind the Clark call.

But we do know one thing for sure: it's Elway's job to correct the problem (or hope 2014 third-rounder Michael Schofield is ready), and if he proves unable, then he's not going to get his hands on that all-important Lombardi Trophy again anytime soon.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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