Until the 2019 season, Ozzie Newsome was the only general manager the Baltimore Ravens ever knew. He held that title from the organization’s founding after the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore up until last year, when he ceded it to his protégé, Eric DeCosta, fading back into a less hands-on role.
DeCosta did pretty well for himself, signing Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram in free agency, managing to trade away several non-essential players for draft picks, such as Joe Flacco, drafting an impact rookie in Marquise Brown, and then, in-season, acquiring Marcus Peters via trade. They even reshuffled their linebackers and found success with Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort mid-season.
It all amounted to a 14-2 season that saw the Ravens send 13 players to the Pro Bowl, tied for the most ever. And it resulted in DeCosta being named the Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year. Interestingly, Newsome never won the award in his 23 seasons, despite his reputation as being one of the best at the job on a perennial basis.
“I’m honored to win the Sporting News Executive of the Year award even though it’s hard to accept such a distinction while so many people in our great country are suffering”, Decosta said, via the team’s website, on receiving the honor. “My thoughts are with all the care givers who devote the very best of themselves”.
Though Baltimore finished the season 14-2, the best record in football, the reality is that they failed to win a playoff game, falling to the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round. In fact, the Ravens have only won a single playoff game, in 2014 over the Pittsburgh Steelers, since their Super Bowl season of 2012. They have only been to the postseason three times since then, posting a 1-3 record over the past seven years.
What continues to baffle me is the fact that every other NFL team really seems to covet Ravens players, both in free agency and the trade market. They somehow got a fourth-round pick out of Jermaine Eluemenor and a sixth-round pick from the Patriots. They traded a kicker who had never kicked in the NFL to the Jets for a fifth-round pick.
For those wondering, the last time the Steelers won the NFL Executive of the Year Award was in 2005, when it was given to Art Rooney II. That was, of course, the year that they claimed their first Lombardi Trophy since 1979. Dan Rooney also was given the award in 2001, and in 1972. His father, Art Rooney, Sr., was given the award in 1974, the year of their first Super Bowl. 1972 was the first year the award was given since 1956.