If only Ozzie could fix ankle sprains…

August 22, 2008 | Drew Forrester

Could Ozzie Newsome be one more non-winning season away from clearing out his desk at 1 Winning Drive?

Some of you think so. A number of callers and/or e-mailers over the last month or so have opined that Newsome’s tenure here is on shaky ground.

I’m not hearing that from the Ravens, but I certainly see where people could come to that conclusion given the team’s poor play in two of the last three years. At Owings Mills, staffers literally laugh when I mention the words “Ozzie” and “hot seat” in the same sentence.

The way I look at it (and maybe you do, too), if the team’s owner will suit up in his Captain Knee Jerk suit and fire a 9-year coach without a replacement on the other end, he’s capable of doing ANYTHING, including parting company with one of the game’s most respected GM’s in the league.

Ozzie is starting to get the blame these days because SOMEONE has to get it. A popular method of evaluation in Baltimore is this: When the Ravens WIN, it’s because of the players. When the Ravens lose, it’s because of the coach. Or the quarterback. Or, now that the coach (the old one) and the quarterback (the old one) are out and on his way out, the GM will become the trendy scapegoat.

Of the team’s projected 22 starters this year (note the word “projected”…injuries could change this), how many do you think came via the team’s draft? 4, 8, 12?

Try 16.

Sure, the team’s efforts in free agency have been both hot and cold over the last few years. Trevor Pryce and Derrick Mason were solid pick-ups. Keydrick Vincent wasn’t. Samari Rolle has been decent, but not a world beater. And we’re not sure about Willis McGahee yet.

If Ozzie is held accountable for the team’s roster, it’s important to hold him accountable for ALL of it.

Now, I’m the first guy to say his efforts in improving the team’s offensive line via free agency have been, well, not very productive. They’ve tried awfully hard in the draft to get some offensive line help and, to some extent (Brown, Grubbs, Yanda) they’ve done a nice job there. But, as far as bringing in quality veterans to bolster the team’s offensive line, Ozzie has pretty much whiffed in this decade.

When the team won in ’06, I don’t remember anyone leading a campaign to show thanks for Ozzie’s player selection prowess. Newsome isn’t entirely responsible for the club’s roster, of course. He has some very talented football professionals like Eric DeCosta and George Kokinis who handle the bulk of the team’s scouting. And, in the salary cap driven NFL, every team’s Pat Moriarty is exceptionally important. The Ravens have a great capologist in Moriarty, who has helped keep the team relatively competitive over the last decade.

Now, if only Newsome and Co. can figure out how to keep Todd Heap from pulling a hamstring or Willis McGahee from getting knee surgery a month before the season starts…

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