BALTIMORE (AP)– Ozzie Newsome’s reign as the only general manager in Baltimore Ravens history will come to an end after the 2018 season.
Newsome signed a five-year extension in 2014 with the understanding that he surrenders the post to assistant GM Eric DeCosta at the end of the contract, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said Friday.
“Ozzie will step down as GM and has assured me that he’s not going anywhere,” Bisciotti said. “He will work with me and work with Eric for a smooth transition and he’ll be the highest paid scout in America when Eric takes over next year.”
Newsome, 61, has been in charge of filling out the roster since the Ravens arrived in Baltimore in 1996. His first two draft picks were Jonathan Ogden — who became a Hall of Fame offensive lineman — and Ray Lewis, who is expected to enter the Hall this year.
Newsome is also a member of the Hall of Fame. Following his standout career as a tight end with the Cleveland Browns, Newsome made the transition to the front office under former Ravens owner Art Modell. With Newsome leading the way, Baltimore won two Super Bowls and reached the postseason five straight years from 2008-12.
DeCosta, 46, joined the Ravens at an entry-level position in 1996 and was schooled by Newsome. Since becoming assistant general manager in 2012, DeCosta spurned numerous job offers from other teams with the assumption, then assurance, that he would inherit Newsome’s job.
“I think he has learned from Ozzie. I think he’s a great leader of the scouts,” Bisciotti said of DeCosta. “It’s Ozzie’s department, but most of the interaction with all the scouts is with Eric. I’ve seen the way he goes about the business, I’ve seen the way he’s embraced technology and analytics, and I like working with him.”
Bisciotti said of the impending switch from Newsome to DeCosta: “It’s time. There are people that are running other franchises that got the jobs because Eric wouldn’t take it. This year it was the Packers.”
Bisciotti spoke for nearly an hour in his annual postseason session with the media. He fielded questions on a wide variety of topics — beginning with his decision to retain coach John Harbaugh after Baltimore missed the playoffs for a third straight season.
Firing Harbaugh “was certainly a consideration, but not one that I was inclined to make this year,” the owner said.
Asked if he would fire Harbaugh if the Ravens fail to reach the postseason in 2018, Bisciotti replied, “I’m not going to give a ‘playoff or bust’ edict to you all or my coach. He’s under (more) pressure probably than he’s ever been in in his life, and I expect him to … make the most of this season. I may as well replace him now if I’m going to tell him, ‘Make the playoffs or you’re out of town next year.’ That’s not the way to run a business.”
Though the Ravens have gone 5-11, 8-8 and 9-7 over the last three years, Bisciotti noted that things would have been different were it not for a last-minute loss in Pittsburgh in 2016 and a stunning defeat at home in the finale against Cincinnati this season.
He also cited quarterback Joe Flacco’s slow recovery from an ailing back as a determining factor in 2017.
“We’re literally looking at a few moments of time that went against us,” Bisciotti said. “We’re not talking about 4-12 seasons here. We’re talking about a franchise quarterback that had a herniated disk and was not healthy for the first half of the year. There’s a couple games that we should have won, that if we did, we might have been resting our starters against Cincinnati. That’s our goal next year.”
Bisciotti hopes that an improved team will draw more fans to home games in 2018. The Ravens sold out every game, but often performed before thousands of empty seats.
“Am I disappointed in it? Yeah. Concerned? Yes,” he said. “The no-shows are a way of telling us our fans aren’t pleased. We’ve got to win, and I hope that solves a majority of the problems.”