Yawn. Anyone expecting a fire-and-brimstone performance from Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti’s one-man show was sorely disappointed.
More of the same, nothing to see here, move along…
Eric DeCosta will take over for General Manager Ozzie Newsome in 2019, Bisciotti announced during Friday’s press conference. DeCosta has served as the team’s assistant general manager for the past six years, and it has been common knowledge that he was the general-manager-in-waiting.
Newsome, 61, has run the Ravens’ personnel department ever since the franchise moved from Cleveland in 1996. He became the team’s general manager, and NFL’s first African American general manager, in 2002.
“Ozzie will step down as GM and has assured me that he’s not going anywhere and that he will work with me and work with Eric for a smooth transition,” Bisciotti said before cracking a joke. “He will be the highest-paid scout in America when Eric takes over next year.”
DeCosta has been in charge of coordinating the Ravens’ draft process for years, but will take over the final decisions on that as well as free agency and much more.
Bisciotti said “everything” about DeCosta makes him confident that he’s ready for the job.
“I think he has learned from Ozzie,” Bisciotti said. “I think he’s a great leader of the scouts. 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.”
A graduate of the Ravens’ original “20/20” club of scouts who were around 20 years old making about $20,000 annually, DeCosta has moved up the ranks to area scout, director of college scouting (for six years), director of player personnel (three years) and assistant general manager.
Bisciotti expressed satisfaction with the Ravens’ draft classes overall in recent years, but acknowledged that some early-round misses have been “statistically significant” in the Ravens’ run of four of the past five years outside the playoffs.
Part of the issue, Bisciotti said, is they have lost a lot of their scouting experience beneath Newsome and DeCosta. Baltimore has always had a policy of growing and promoting from within, and it’s obviously worked for a long time evidenced by DeCosta’s rise, but the losses caught up to the team.
The Philadelphia Eagles, and Chicago Bears before them, plucked now Vice President of Player Personnel Joe Douglas, Assistant Director of Player Personnel Andy Weidl and Director of College Scouting Ian Cunningham from Baltimore in recent years. Those were all promising in-house grown scouts who are now working for the Super Bowl-bound Eagles.
“We don’t play the carousel game with the Ravens. Since Ozzie has come in here, he has developed them over many, many, many years to become really, really good scouts. When we lost those scouts, we didn’t necessarily go out and hire equal scouts to replace them. And I think that was a mistake,” Bisciotti said.
“I think, in retrospect, you can say that you can’t lose those three scouts with 30 years of experience between the three of them and then hire 25 year olds that are ready to give it the old try. … We have not done a very good job of filling in senior people with senior people, so that’s something that we’re going to address starting right now, and hopefully rebuild that on the fly.”
Bisciotti also said several times during the 45-minute media session that the Ravens need to inject their offense with dynamic offensive playmakers around quarterback Joe Flacco, and the team plans to spend resources in free agency and the draft to make that happen.
“I think that there’s a really good chance we won’t take a defensive tackle in the first round. I hear the criticism,” he said. “We will be exploring all options in free agency and the draft for targets for Joe.”
Surrounding Flacco with weapons was a talking point when team brass held the annual offseason summit at Bisciotti’s Florida home, and they are on a mission to inject the roster with offensive difference makers.
“You can be assured that the majority of our attention will be on offense this year,” Bisciotti said. “I think that we can make a splash and help us on the way to getting our offense clicking better.”
Baltimore finished No. 27 in total offense last year, but that was because the group struggled mightily early in the year as quarterback Joe Flacco dealt with a herniated disc. Flacco missed the entire preseason and returned to practice just a week before the season opener. The Ravens also lost starting guards Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis by Week 2.
Bisciotti admitted that during the early stretch of the season the offense was “boring.”
The unit surged late in the season as Flacco got healthier, however, and the group scored the second-most points in the league in the second half of the year. The Ravens are now focused on building off the strong finish to the season by adding some new playmakers to the mix over the next few months.
“We’re going to have to go back into the till,” Bisciotti said.
Bisciotti briefly addressed the no-shows attendance problem at M&T Bank Stadium by saying, in effect, “winning will change everything.”