Ozzie Newsome: A Story of Success
Ozzie Newsome – General Manager and Executive VP of the Baltimore Ravens
Ozzie Newsome enjoyed a stellar NFL career as a tight end in which he caught 662 balls and 47 touchdowns. A former first round draft pick of the Cleveland Brown and current Hall of Famer, Newsome played for legendary coach Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama. This would not be the last time that Newsome surrounded himself with incredible leaders.
Ozzie Newsome began his career following his playing days as an assignment scout for the Cleveland Browns. Newsome quickly climbed the ranks in Cleveland, as he was named the Director of Pro Personnel in 1994 for the Browns. Just two years later, Newsome was named the Vice President of Player Personnel for the Baltimore Ravens, who had just relocated from Cleveland.
Analyzing talent and accurately choosing the best possible college player for your team can be very challenging. Some picks will make personnel departments look incredibly intelligent, while others will have the public and media in outrage. When looking at Ozzie Newsome’s draft resume, you will see many true stars in the league and only a few “busts.” In Newsome’s first year as the vice president of player personnel in 1996, the Ravens used their two first round draft picks (4th and 26th overall) to select two incredible players, Jonathan Odgen and Ray Lewis, who will likely join Newsome in the hall of fame in the coming years. In just his second year, the Ravens chose eventual NFL Defensive Rookie of the year and four time pro-bowler LB Peter Boulware. Newsome’s noticeable picks in the coming years include CBs Duane Starks (1998) Chris McAlister (1999), RB Jamal Lewis (2000), TE Todd Heap (2001), S Ed Reed (2002), LB Terrell Suggs (2003), Haloti Ngata (2006), QB Joe Flacco (2008) and RB Ray Rice (2008).
However, in addition to studying the playmakers drafted under direction of Ozzie Newsome, one must study the busts drafted over the same period. The first pick that comes to mind, for me personally, is Kyle Boller, a first round pick in 2003. Many people say that he was put in the starting role too soon and that he did not have a great offense around him to allow a young quarterback to thrive. I do not buy this. If you choose a quarterback in the first round you expect him to thrive, and to do so in the near future. As a former quarterback I feel (with a bias) that the quarterback is the single most important position on the field. Good quarterbacks can thrive with great talent around them. Great quarterbacks can make good players around them thrive. And a first round quarterback should be expected to make his teammates thrive, which Kyle Boller was not able to do. Other potential busts are WRs Mark Clayton and Travis Taylor, both taken in the first round. Travis Taylor was picked in the 2000 draft and released after the 2004 season. Mark Clayton was picked in the 2004 draft and will have to fight for a roster spot with the addition of Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth. Ideally, a first round pick should be at least a consistent starter for your team for years, and hopefully grab a few pro bowl selections as well. However, it seems that Newsome has been able to correct for some of these draft mistakes by finding a franchise QB in Joe Flacco, adding Derrick Mason as a free agent WR and trading for Anquan Boldin.
Free agency has been tremendously important to the success of the Ravens. In 2000, the Ravens signed DT Sam Adams and S Rod Woodson, both of whom made the pro bowl in their first year in a Ravens uniform. In addition, QB Trent Dilfer was signed as a backup QB, but came in to win the final eleven games of the season, including the Super Bowl. Derrick Mason and CB Samari Rolle were signed as free agents. QB Steve McNair and DT Trevor Pryce were both picked up before the 2006 season with McNair making the pro bowl that year. Newsome has aquired some big name free agents over his time, with many of them having a large impact on the Ravens’ success.
The salary cap became an issue following the Ravens’ Super Bowl winning season in 2000-2001. By two years later, the Ravens had to let go more than twelve starters from their Super Bowl team due to a lack of cap space. Pat Moriarty, the Ravens’ Vice President of Football Administration, is primarily responsible for the management of the salary cap, but as a General Manager Newsome is ultimately responsible for his staff and players. Moriarty and Newsome work closely together, and a team should have no excuse for such a pressing salary cap situation. But maybe they thought it was worth spending a lot of money to have a great chance at a Super Bowl when they knew they would have to free cap space in the coming years. I would rather a team build a long-term foundation.
Since the beginning of the franchise in 1996, the Ravens have been blessed with stellar coaching, and much of that is due to the work and principles of the management team. John Harbaugh is currently the head coach and was hired before the 2008 season. When he was hired, he had never before been a head coach, and it appeared to be a questionable hiring to the general public. This situation reminded me very clearly of the example in the book The Packer Way, by Ron Wolf and Paul Attner. When the Green Bay Packers signed Brett Favre and hired Mike Holmgren, it looked as if their management was not totally sure what they were doing. However, the management knew, deep down, they had their guys. And Ron says that the most important positions in a football organization for great leadership is the head coach and quarterback. With John Harbaugh coaching and newly drafted Joe Flacco at the helm, the Ravens’ management knew they were going in a good direction. The Ravens have also had nine assistant coaches go on to become head coaches for other NFL teams. Nine in fifteen years! Ozzie Newsome has a knack for hiring successful people, an important aspect of running an organization and being able to trust the people who are working for you.
I believe that the Ravens had a stellar offseason this year in regards to both free agency as well as the draft. Second round draft pick Terrence Cody is a huge body who, next to Haloti Ngata and in front of Ray Lewis, could bolster an already stifling Ravens’ run defense. Sergio Kindle was considered a first round talent by most and scooped up by the Ravens in the second round, and TEs Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta should add very solid depth behind TE Todd Heap. After being called out about a lack of talent in the receiving corps last year, Newsome responded by adding Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth and re-signing Derrick Mason. DE Cory Redding should be a solid starter in the front seven, while Newsome added depth with the additions of QB Marc Bulger and K Shayne Graham.
I think the Ravens’ are poised for a great season with no glaring weaknesses in their lineup. All in all, I think Ozzie Newsome has been a very successful GM and he is highly regarded among others in the football industry. He has made some safe, big name acquisitions but also the not so popular decision (John Harbaugh) that he sternly believed in. What does everyone else think?
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