It's getting weird with Lamar Jackson, but...
... figure it out. He's too valuable in this loaded AFC.
The final massive decision Ozzie Newsome made as the Baltimore Ravens’ general manager was to draft Lamar Jackson.
OK, fine. He waited like everyone else. He even took a tight end 25th overall (Hayden Hurst) before Jackson 32nd overall. But Newsome — one of the best GMs ever — was the one bold enough to welcome all red flags attached to the Heisman Trophy winner from Louisville. There was nothing resembling Jackson in the sport.
This is a major point of pride for Newsome.
When we chatted for my upcoming book — The Blood and Guts, available for pre-sale! — Newsome connected the dots. He related his own career to Jackson. At Alabama, Newsome was a split end in a wishbone offense. It took a vision. It took scouting. It took a coach in pro football sending someone to his workout to examine the size of his buttocks to believe he could be a legitimate NFL tight end. Sam Rutigliano of the Cleveland Browns envisioned Newsome as a No. 1 target from this position.
Newsome never forgot. Newsome applied the same outside-the-box thinking to believing in a quarterback many smart football minds viewed as a receiver.
“I was in a system where they were utilizing my strength,” Newsome said. “And asking me to do what I could do best, to continue to get better at. Again — because I see it from the other side — that’s good scouting and good coaching. Look at how Lamar’s doing right now. No one thought Lamar could be a passer like that. But he developed himself into being a passer, as well as being one of the most dynamic runners. So, you can develop your skills if you’re put in a good situation and you have good coaches around you.”
Newsome was willing to venture to a place of innovation few GMs and coaches dare. Rather than seek the players who fit a specific system, he created a system that fit a specific player.
His Hall of Fame playing career directly paved the way for his two-plus decades running the Ravens.
“With me, when I got in this seat, ‘OK, I’ve been a coach, I’ve been a player, I’ve been coached by some great coaches.’ So, I took all of that and it helped me evaluate talent.”
Out was Joe Flacco. In was Jackson.
All he’s done is win 37 games and lose 12. At his best, Jackson is a unanimous MVP, a ubiquitous playmaker who gives all viewers vertigo, a threat the position has never seen before. (Unless you think the Madden ‘04 version of Michael Vick was the actual Michael Vick, which is incorrect despite an absolute banger of a soundtrack.)
Now, things in Baltimore are getting weird.