Most fans of the Baltimore Ravens know the nickname given to General Manager Ozzie Newsome. The 'Wizard of Oz' in Baltimore refers to the team's GM who always seems to make the right moves to keep this team competitive year-after-year. "In Oz We Trust" is a common mantra when others might dare question the personnel decisions the team makes.
This past off-season, the Ravens jettisoned salary by releasing popular veterans Todd Heap and Derrick Mason. While some fans were outraged and concerned, all Newsome did was re-tool the team by promoting second year tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta into starting roles and trading a late-round draft pick for speedy WR Lee Evans.
In a story by AP sports writer David Ginsburg titled, "Retooled Ravens celebrate "a whole new year," he mentions how Ravens LB Ray Lewis reminded the team at halftime of the Ravens 35-7 opening week victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers that they had also led the Steelers 21-7 at the half of last year's playoff game, only to see that lead crumble away in just another season-ending loss to their division rivals. This time, the Ravens never took their foot off of the Steelers throats and coasted to an overwhelming victory.
Now the Ravens GM has put together a team designed to beat the Steelers and add an offensive component to the already solid defense, which is actually better than what most people ever expected. Long considered a run-first, plodding offense, the team got leaner, faster and better. Newsome's moves have been proven to be the right ones, as both Dickson and Pitta have been match-up nightmares for defenses and while Evans has yet to showcase his skills, it has opened up an opportunity for rookie WR Torrey Smith, who has helped stretch the field and kept secondaries from creeping up tot he line of scrimmage, which has had a domino effect on the running game with Ray Rice.
These moves and decision-making only further cements Ozzie Newsome's reputation around the league as one of the shrewdest minds with a great team behind him in player personnel and scouting, not to mention ownership and the coaching staff, virtually ensuring that the Ravens will continue to play meaningful games late in the season and beyond, a fact that should not be taken for granted by our now-spoiled fan base due to the annual success of the Ravens over the past decade or so.