Even in perhaps his last season with the team, things don’t change much for Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens’ former longtime general manager-turned-consultant/adviser.
During games, he still sits with staff members watching with little emotion, except on rare occasions. He still hates giving interviews.
But nearly three years ago, there was a lot of criticism of Newsome in Baltimore, some of it valid. A lot of it was because the team often came up short in the stretch run to make playoffs.
That situation has changed now. The Ravens have won seven straight games and are the hottest team in the NFL. And they are winning with a lot of the players Newsome drafted, who are set to be cornerstones of the franchise.
As the Ravens continue to win and gear up for the postseason, most of the credit will be given to current general manager Eric DeCosta, who replaced Newsome at the beginning of the season.
In perspective, though, the 2019 season has been about the maturation and development of young players like quarterback Lamar Jackson, offensive tackles Orlando Brown Jr. and Ronnie Stanley, tight end Mark Andrews and cornerback Marlon Humphrey, among others.
Guess who drafted those players? Ozzie Newsome.
DeCosta will be the first to give Newsome credit. Newsome was and still is DeCosta’s mentor, the one team executive that could have driven off into the sunset last season but stayed around because owner Steve Bisciotti and a few other top officials felt his presence was necessary.
As Newsome’s career comes to a close, it seems fitting that he leaves the organization with players to build around, like he did in the team’s first draft in 1996.
Back then, Newsome delivered on two first-round picks who became Hall of Famers in offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and linebacker Ray Lewis.
Now, it’s Jackson.
This isn’t to say that Jackson is headed to Canton, Ohio, or will win as many awards and championships as those two. But he has shown the same type of work ethic and charisma as Lewis and put a similar energy into an organization that had become stagnant.
In recent years, when the Ravens were involved in a nationally televised game, it was hard to find a prominent player on this team to promote, even though veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was still on the roster.
On Monday night, Jackson was paired opposite Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, voted the top defensive player in the NFL in 2017 and 2018. That’s a great accomplishment for a player in only his second season.
Jackson might not win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, but it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same breath with other candidates like quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.
We could go on and on.
Andrews is one of the best tight ends in the league and Stanley has become a top left tackle. Marcus Peters is one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the NFL, but he might not even be the best on the Ravens roster because that title belongs to Humphrey.
Those are the top players Newsome selected. A good team is built around solid, blue-collar players, and Newsome selected those, too, in Brown, running back Gus Edwards, guard Bradley Bozeman, center Matt Skura, defensive tackle Michael Pierce and safety Chuck Clark.
Brown could have easily slipped to the later rounds in the draft but Newsome selected him in the third, and on Monday night Brown, Stanley and right guard Marshal Yanda made Donald disappear.
Newsome, like most general managers, has had his failures throughout his career, including recent top draft picks like receiver Breshard Perriman and safety Matt Elam. He has missed on some second rounders, too, like linebackers Arthur Brown and Kamalei Correa and tight end Maxx Williams.
But failures and successes are all part of the job; you just have to have more wins than losses, just like any other competitive position.
The Ravens coaching staff, led by John Harbaugh and coordinators Don Martindale (defense) and Greg Roman (offense), have done a good of building around the talent they have, especially Roman with the running game.
But the Ravens also have playmakers that they haven’t had in recent seasons like Jackson, Humphrey and Andrews.
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A lot of the credit has to go to Newsome. He selected them. He has already won two Super Bowls and could be on the verge of winning another.