The Baltimore Ravens are known as an organization that makes very few mistakes when it signs free agents and picks draft selections. The Ravens tend to hit on a number of draft picks and seem to be able to add just the right veteran players in free agency. It is rare to see the Ravens go after any high priced free agents. The majority of the credit for being so accurate with their personnel moves goes to general manager Ozzie Newsome.
Newsome has achieved a high level of success as both a general manager and a player. His Hall of Fame career is well documented. When he retired, he had numerous receiving records as a tight end for the Cleveland Browns. He was one of the pioneers who showed that tight ends can be used as a major part of the passing game. His 662 receptions and 7,980 yards receiving still place him fifth all time for tight ends.
After retiring in 1990, Newsome first broke into the scouting world with the Browns as a special assignment scout. Bill Belichick took a liking to Newsome and named him as his assistant for pro personnel. This was where he began to develop the ability to scout players on other teams. His job with Belichick was to create detailed records of players on other teams and make suggestions on which players the Browns should go after.
In 1996, the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. Newsome was asked to move with the team by then owner Art Modell. He was named the VP of Player Personnel. He was primarily responsible for the direction of the first ever draft by the Ravens. That draft set the tone for the Ravens team that fans love today.
The 1996 draft produced two Hall of Fame players that were monumental pieces in the Ravens history that includes two Super Bowl trophies. Jonathan Ogden anchored the Ravens offensive line and became one of the best, left tackles to ever play the game. Ray Lewis was the emotional leader of the team and directed the defense as one of the best middle linebackers ever.
Newsome was named as the NFL’s Executive of the Year in 2000, thanks to the dominating defense that he assembled by selecting players such as Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper, Chris McAlister and Duane Starks. The key free agent additions of Tony Siragusa, Shannon Sharpe and Rod Woodson were also key to the 2000 Super Bowl championship team.
The success the Ravens achieved in the early 2000s forced them to have to select players at the bottom of the rounds. However, that didn’t stop Newsome from continuing his draft excellence. The Ravens were able to land key players such as Todd Heap and future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed in late draft spots over the next few years. Terrell Suggs was another draft selection the Ravens made with Newsome as their general manager.
The success that Newsome has achieved during his venture in the NFL front office led to him being named the Ravens general manager in 2002. This was a monumental, because he was the first African American to be named the general manager of an NFL team— once again, Newsome was a trendsetter.
The Ravens have been the model of consistency, thanks to the players that have been acquired by Newsome over the years.
He was able to put together a trade that allowed the Ravens to move up to obtain Joe Flacco, the franchise quarterback. It was important to get the next quarterback pick right and the Ravens did just that by trading up to get Joe Flacco in 2008 draft.
Many people in the NFL respect Newsome because of how motivated he is to be successful which is supported by his work ethic. He works out on the treadmill in the player’s weight room and is out on the field with the players frequently. There is a reason for that.
“Being around the coaches and players out at practice and in the weight room gives me a chance to track the pulse of the team.” Newsome said.
Another reason that Newsome is so well respected is how he creates an environment that pushes assistant coaches to move on to become head coaches. The list of head coaches who spent time with the Ravens prior to becoming a head coach is a long one that includes: Jim Caldwell, Jack Del Rio, Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan and more.
The Ravens make their own list of players to scout. Newsome encourages every one of his scouts to have a voice. He gives credit to guys like assistant general manager Eric DeCosta for helping scouts learn the traits that the Ravens look for in players.
DeCosta created a picture of how the Ravens do things from a scout’s perspective. He said, “A number of us look at everyone. We have the area scouts that look at certain players from other regions so we get multiple grades and opinions on all the players,”
Newsome created what he calls a 20/20 club, which is used to develop scouts. The 20/20 title refers to the younger scouts who are hired in their 20s for $20,000. They are able to cut their teeth as scouts learning the “Ravens Way.” Their input is always encouraged and they are given opportunities to work their way up the ranks. DeCosta is a graduate of Newsome’s 20/20 club.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh summed it up best when he said, “Ozzie’s credibility is what stands out the most. It’s not just about what he has accomplished.” Harbaugh continued, “To me, it’s his commitment and focus while striving to do more.”
The road to this point has been a long one for Newsome. He has seen success at every level. It all began in Alabama back in 1974 when he was a star player for Alabama head coach Bear Bryant. Newsome has been a trendsetter as both a player and NFL executive. Rest assured that the Ravens are in good hands for years to come with Newsome at the controls of the personnel moves.