BALTIMORE, Md. — Earlier this week, Baltimore Sun columnist and long time Baltimore Ravens watcher Mike Preston wrote that the Ravens are now officially the team of head coach John Harbaugh.
He noted how there was always the belief that the team would never be Harbaugh’s team until long-time team captain and 17-year linebacker Ray Lewis retired. Lewis finally called it quits after the team won the Super Bowl in February and said that he was passing the torch to Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco. Preston thinks that’s not the case at all; he proclaims this is now officially Harbaugh’s group.
Well, with all due respect to Preston, that’s not the case, either.
Contrary to the widely-held belief, the Ravens were never Ray Lewis’ team.
This great Baltimore franchise has always been, and for the immediate future will remain, Ravens general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome’s team.
Newsome has served as the mastermind behind the Ravens’ success for as long the Ravens have been in existence. Sure, Ray Lewis has been the leader of the team locker room since he was first drafted in the first round of the 1996 NFL draft. But it was Newsome who oversaw Lewis’ draft selection from his position, at the time, of director of player personnel.
He was not only responsible for drafting Lewis and other countless players who developed into great contributors for the Ravens, but he was also responsible for hiring former Ravens head coach Brian Billick, who led the Ravens to their first Super Bowl victory back during the 2000-01 season. And when Billick lost his ability to motivate the team to return to the Super Bowl status, Newsome was the man responsible for finding Harbaugh, the current head coach.
Newsome’s fingerprints are all over the Ravens franchise. He’s the man Harbaugh leans on when he needs to make tough decisions to keep the team on the road to success.
For instance, Harbaugh’s replacement of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell late during the 2012 season gave the Ravens the boost needed to help guide them to their second Super Bowl in franchise history.
But Harbaugh didn’t make that decision without a long period of consistent communication with Newsome. Harbaugh confirmed with reporters that he didn’t make that coaching decision on impulse. He didn’t fire his longtime colleague and friend just because the Ravens were in a losing funk at the time.
Harbaugh told reporters that he had been talking with Newsome about making the coaching change for quite some time, and he had spoken with Newsome right before making the decision to make sure it was the right move to make.
The Ravens are currently on a housecleaning spree, parting ways with several star players, including veteran receiver Anquan Boldin, strong safety Bernard Pollard, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and pass rusher Paul Kruger. Even future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed may not be back with the team after serving the team for a decade.
You’d better believe that the decision to let these players go didn’t come without a well-calculated plan already steered in process by Ozzie.
Newsome can already look back on two Super Bowl titles, four AFC Championship appearances and nine playoff appearances in the past 12 years (five straight playoff appearances throughout the past five years). He may be the most respected general manager in the National Football League.
But his accomplishments are not over.
So as Ravens fans watch several iconic players leave the Ravens’ franchise, do not fear for the worse. For as long as the most important Raven, Ozzie Newsome, is around, this team will always be in position to compete among the best teams in the NFL.