To hear Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti tell it, he learned very early that it probably wasn’t wise for him to meddle in most player personnel decisions.
As the Ravens prepared to make the 24th overall selection in the 2002 Draft, it became clear that they would have an opportunity to draft one of the top remaining defensive backs left on the board. Bisciotti wanted Lito Sheppard, a cornerback out of Florida. General manager Ozzie Newsome and his staff, however, had their eyes on another player.
“The top two guys left on the board were Lito Sheppard and Ed Reed,” Bisciotti recalled last week. “We had Ed Reed above Lito and I said to Ozzie, ‘I don’t understand this. If they both have the same grade, why would you not take a corner over a safety? It seems like that’s a more important position.’ Ozzie said, ‘Because I am true to my board.’”
As you know, the Ravens drafted Reed, the play-making safety out of Miami. Two picks later, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Sheppard.
Sheppard, who has been out of the NFL since playing for the Oakland Raiders during the 2011-12 season, played for four different organizations over 10 years, collecting 19 interceptions and being selected to two Pro Bowl teams.
Reed, meanwhile, just completed his 11th season with the Ravens and is regarded as one of the best safeties to ever play the game.
“I kind of learned from that point on that I better not engage too much and try and alter their decision-making, or else we would have had Lito,” Bisciotti said.
Bisciotti told the story at last Thursday’s “State of the Ravens” address after he was asked to break down three to five of the top decisions that he did or didn’t make to help the organization along the way of another Super Bowl victory.
Bisciotti immediately pointed to his right, where coach John Harbaugh sat, and said “Hiring
him.” But besides that decision, he directed the credit and accolades to others.
“I rely on Ozzie and John to counsel me through the football stuff. I rely on [team president Dick Cass] and [senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne] to counsel me through the business side,” Bisciotti said. “Other than that, as you guys know, this place hasn’t changed much. There is not much that I can hang my hat on. I’m happy that I had that window of four years to see that we had such a quality organization and then be able to maintain it. So really, other than replacing [Brian Billick], that’s about the only major decision I’ve made in all these years, unless you can come up with something that I did. I am willing to accept credit for anything else you can throw out there.”