If any Ravens fans think that there will be some seismic shift in the way the Ravens move forward from beloved, longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome, they haven’t been paying attention.
Eric DeCosta will take the front office lion spike from Newsome at the end of this season, whenever that might be, but the close relationship between the two and the fact that Newsome obviously will remain a presence at the Under Armour Performance Center should tell you that he’ll continue to have an imprint on the team.
Head coach John Harbaugh reminded everyone of that during his afternoon news conference on New Year’s Eve when someone asked how special it was for the Ravens to defeat the Browns on Sunday to win the AFC North title in Newsome’s last regular season game as GM.
“I think sometimes it gets lost that Ozzie is not leaving,’’ Harbaugh said. “He’s not going anywhere. He’s going to be right here with us, so the guys understand that, too. But from the standpoint of ‘this is his last year as the GM,’ that’s why last night was another layer to the whole thing about why it meant so much. It’s Ozzie’s last opportunity as a GM, and here we are, playing the Cleveland Browns, of all teams, in a game like that.”
Newsome’s career timeline is well-known. He is one of the greatest tight ends to ever play in the NFL and he played his entire career with the old Browns, who are now the Ravens. He was already a member of the Browns front office when Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore and he became the NFL’s first African-American general manager in 2002.
In other words, he’s something of a living legend here in Baltimore, which — if this were some other time and place — might make for an awkward situation for the guy who is replacing him. Maybe it will be at some point, but he and DeCosta have worked so closely together for so long that it should be a comfortable transition for both.
That doesn’t mean that DeCosta won’t have his own philosophy and approach to the job, but there probably won’t be much pressure on him to prove that to anybody because he has long been known as one of the main architects of the team.
Things are a little different across the parking lot at Camden Yards, where new general manager Mike Elias has a total mandate to make the Orioles over in his own image. The difference being that the Orioles just suffered through the worst season in their Baltimore franchise history and desperately needed a total facelift.
Perhaps things would have been different for the Ravens if they had not emerged from their midseason slump and staggered to the end of their fourth straight season without a playoff berth, but the opposite happened.
They won six of their last seven games — which was the only path back to the postseason — and reshaped the organization’s immediate future in the process.
Obviously, the dynamic emergence of rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson changed everything, including the amount of organizational upheaval that might otherwise have faced DeCosta if things had continued to go south.
Instead, the two biggest decisions that would have greeted him essentially have been made already. The Ravens announced the day before the pivotal victory over the Los Angeles Chargers that Harbaugh would be returning at least for the 2019 season and probably beyond. And Jackson had such an impact on the fortunes of this year’s team that there is little question that — barring injury — he will remain the starting quarterback, which likely means the team will part ways with Joe Flacco.
That’s not a happy thought, but life goes on and Flacco will land well if the Ravens decide to trade or release him. He’s still a top quarterback and was having a strong season before the team slipped into a three-game losing streak and he suffered the hip injury that forced the very fortuitous promotion of Jackson.
There still will be plenty to do and DeCosta is well-prepared to take the franchise forward, no doubt with a pretty good consultant available to him down the hall.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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