If you have any interest in scouting or the personnel world, you like Ozzie Newsome. Actually, you should love Ozzie. He is everything that’s right about being a GM.
Greg Bedard wrote a brilliant piece on Ozzie, starting with his childhood and going right up to now. Lots of great information and stories in there.
Here is a great bit on his transition from college to the NFL.
Before the 1978 draft, another coach was sent, like Mitchell, to visit Newsome, with very specific instructions. Rich Kotite was part of Sam Rutigliano’s new coaching staff with the Browns. Rutigliano wanted a weapon who could attack the double zone defenses of the day down the middle. That meant he needed a tight end. Newsome was a receiver most of his career at Alabama, but Rutigliano thought he could make the transition if he possessed one unique physical trait.
“I told [Kotite], ‘I don’t want to know anything else except does he have a big butt?’ ” Rutigliano recalls.
A few days later, Kotite returned from Tuscaloosa. As he walked into Rutigliano’s office, Kotite didn’t have any scouting reports or any materials on Newsome. “He just said, ‘Sam, he’s got a big butt.’ I said OK, and we drafted him 23rd overall, after taking linebacker Clay Matthews 12th,” Rutigliano recalls.
Newsome reported for a mini-camp and met with Rutigliano, who told his new player he could make it as a receiver but could be a great tight end. “Coach, Bear Bryant told me to tell you that he thinks I should play tight end too,” Newsome said. “Well, if coach Bryant feels that way, that’s good enough for both of us, right?” Rutigliano replied.
“Yes sir,” Newsome said.
The reason for wanting the big butt was so that Newsome could become a functional blocker. Most power comes from the lower body. Players with no butt and thin legs won’t have a strong enough base to be an in-line blocker.
And here’s a good draft tale.
Newsome’s next bout with draft-day drama would come in 1999, after a third-straight losing season resulted in the firing of Marchibroda and hiring of former Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick as head coach. Before the draft, the Ravens traded a third-round pick to the Lions for quarterback Scott Mitchell (and would later also sign Tony Banks), leaving them with selections in the first, second, fourth (two picks) and seventh rounds. All agreed to take cornerback Chris McAlister with the 10th overall pick. In the second round the Falcons called and inquired about trading for the Ravens’ pick, in exchange for a first-round selection in the 2000 draft. Newsome explained the deal to Modell and concluded that it was a good trade for the Ravens.
Billick, who had some new-coach cachet, wanted players he could coach now, and Savage, who wanted to protect the work his scouts did, disagreed with Newsome.
“We need players. We need players now,” Billick said. “We don’t need players next year.”
“I understand that,” Newsome said, “but that’s a lot of currency for a second-round pick.”
“It could be the 32nd pick next year—they beat my old team to go to the Super Bowl,” Billick responded.
Newsome replied, “I don’t think it’s going to be quite that low next year.”
As the pick got closer, there wasn’t much talk in the room. Modell looked at Newsome and asked his opinion. “I like the Atlanta trade,” he said.
Billick became more forceful. “Ozzie, we need players. The reason I’m here is you don’t have enough good players. That’s why Ted got fired and I’m here,” Billick said. “We have a chance to get a good player. You tell me there are good players up there that will help us win.”
“This will be good for us in the long run,” Newsome said quietly, with five names of possible prospects on the board. “I’ll guarantee you this: one of those five guys will be there in the fourth round.”
Billick shook his head and said, “Ozzie, you have to take a player in the second round. Art, he’s got to take a player in the second round.”
At this point, Newsome, seated at the head of his table, put his elbows on the edge, leaned forward and looked to his right at Modell. The owner looked at Newsome, then at Billick. “He makes the choice,” Modell said, pointing at Newsome. “It’s his draft.”
“We’re going to make the trade with Atlanta,” Newsome said quietly.
Billick walked out the room angrily. Savage also gritted his teeth.
That season the Falcons fell from the Super Bowl to 5-11. As a result, that trade brought the Ravens the fifth overall pick.
That pick landed the team RB Jamal Lewis, who helped them win a Super Bowl and later ran for 2,000 yards in a season. Ozzie is a smart man.
Great piece. Make sure you read that.