OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- It has been nearly three weeks since Ozzie Newsome stepped down as the Baltimore Ravens general manager, and he still doesn't have an official title for his new position.
Go to the Ravens' website, and Newsome is the only person among the 186 staff members with a blank space next to his name.
How does new Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta view Newsome's role going forward? He's thinking along the lines of Brando and Pacino.
“As far as Ozzie is concerned, people that know me really well know that I’ve probably seen ‘The Godfather’ 250 times, and I kind of go back to Michael [Corleone] and him having his father as his consigliere," DeCosta said. "What an advantage he had to have the best in the business advising him day to day. And that’s what I think Ozzie can do with me. Who better to help me make decisions and to navigate than Ozzie Newsome?"
DeCosta doesn't know what Newsome's title will be, saying it's probably the furthest issue from Newsome's mind. But Newsome has made it known that he prefers not to be called "a consultant."
It was nearly a year ago that owner Steve Bisciotti said Newsome would relinquish the general manager title after being the team's top personnel decision-maker for all 23 years of its existence. Newsome, 62, was the first African-American GM in NFL history, and he built two Super Bowl champion teams as well as a reputation for being among the league's shrewdest talent evaluators.
Even though he isn't calling the final shots anymore, Newsome has no plans to retire. All that is known about his new job is that he'll have a significant role, and he'll still have an office at the Ravens' facility.
"He probably will be here most of the time," DeCosta said. "He loves this time of year. He loves the Senior Bowl, he loves the [NFL] combine. Is he going to be here in May? I don’t know. He’ll probably be golfing. Is he going to be here in training camp? I don’t know. Is he going to travel with the team? I really don’t know. But he’s really, really important."
DeCosta wouldn't have become the second general manager in franchise history without the guidance and welcoming hand of Newsome. About 23 years ago, DeCosta was wandering through the stands at the NFL combine trying to find a place to sit. He looked up and saw Newsome sitting with a bunch of general managers and coaches.
Newsome waved at DeCosta and told him to join them. Every year since, DeCosta and Newsome have sat together at the combine.
"It means a lot to me that back then, he basically took a 25-year-old kid who had no experience in the NFL, who was so different from him, and gave me a chance and accepted me," DeCosta said. "He and I have always been very different in a lot of ways but so aligned. It’s been a special relationship in my life. I’ve learned a lot of football, but honestly, just a lot more about being a good person."
For nearly two decades, Newsome made the deciding call, and DeCosta was his trusted voice. Now, the roles will be reversed.
DeCosta envisions walking down the hall to pick Newsome's brain.
"Do we always agree? No. Have we always agreed? No," DeCosta said. "I’ve always looked at my role, though, as serving Ozzie. So I would give my opinion, and no matter what decision we make, I support it. Are there things I want to do differently? Probably."
The biggest philosophical difference between DeCosta and Newsome is how much they embrace new forms of information that have become available.
"Does he appreciate analytics as much as maybe I do or at least maybe as much as I see possible benefits? Maybe, maybe not," DeCosta said. "I think he has probably come around a little bit. Look, we’re very different in a lot of different ways. We don’t see players the same way all the time, and if we don’t, we’ll typically scrimmage it or talk about it, and that’s what makes it good."
The quality DeCosta wants to take from Newsome is his listening skills.
"I don’t want to be the person that has to speak the loudest or speak at the last moment," DeCosta said. "I want to make sure we trust our people and they have a chance to speak and influence the board. I think what we’ve found is that when we do that effectively and everybody has a chance to contribute to the discussion, we’ll make good decisions."
When there's a tough call to be made, DeCosta expects to lean on Newsome's wisdom. Newsome is going to watch tape of draft prospects and potential free agents. He's going to participate in all of the personnel meetings.
If Newsome is going to be DeCosta's consigliere, what happens when he tells DeCosta to whack someone?
"I’ll have to wait and see how all that shakes out," DeCosta said with a chuckle.