INDIANAPOLIS – If Ozzie Newsome wasn’t already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player, he might be considered as a general manager. There aren’t many people in NFL history with that kind of resume.
This is Newsome’s last season as the Baltimore Ravens general manager. The team already announced that at the end of the 2018 season longtime assistant GM Eric DeCosta will step into the GM role. Newsome will still be around to contribute and help DeCosta, but his responsibilities will be akin to what any successful 61-year-old man should be doing.
“He wants my [golf] handicap to get better, No. 1,” Newsome said Friday, at his last scouting combine as GM.
Newsome can take some time to reflect on a remarkable front-office career. He became the Ravens’ vice president of player personnel in 1996, when they moved from Cleveland. In 2002 he became a pioneer as the first black general manager in NFL history. Then he became one of the best general managers in the NFL. Nobody, aside from perhaps Ray Lewis, is more responsible for the Ravens’ run of success that includes two Super Bowl titles.
Five years ago, when he had two years on his contract, he and owner Steve Bisciotti talked about an extension that would let Newsome have five more years as GM and then hand off to the talented DeCosta.
“It worked out,” Newsome said. “Five years went really, really fast.”
When the Ravens announced the GM change when they did, it allowed Newsome to take a bit of a victory lap.
“You get a chance to get the pats on the back, from all of the people, from your group [media], all of my peers on this little journey I’m on,” Newsome said.
“I think the biggest thing is you understand the wins and losses, the tough AFC championship games we lost but you enjoy the Super Bowl wins. But I think the biggest thing I’ve gained is my relationship with the players. I get a chance to be a little bit of a life coach because of my experiences as a player, my experiences as a coach.”
Newsome can’t spend his final year as GM on nostalgia. The Ravens have missed the playoffs three straight seasons. Some misses at receiver and tight end in the draft have left the team woefully short on targets for quarterback Joe Flacco. Before Newsome hits the golf course, he has to help fix the Ravens one last time.
“I feel (pressure) too. I don’t like not playing in January,” Newsome said. “That’s something we talk about all the time. We’ve got to find a way to get to 11 wins.”
The Ravens weren’t bad last season, going 9-7 and missing the playoffs only because of a crazy fourth-down touchdown by the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17. But fans weren’t filling the seats in Baltimore like usual, and Newsome noticed.
“I’m there at every home game, and I look around our stands and I see it’s not the same as it was,” Newsome said. “When I get the product better on the field, I think our fans are going to show up.”
Newsome’s football legacy, going back to his days as a Hall of Fame tight end, is safe. One more great offseason as GM wouldn’t hurt, though.
– – – – – – –