FOXBORO, Mass. – Bill Belichick has quite a history with the Ravens.
The Patriots are 5-3 against Baltimore under Belichick but just 3-3 since John Harbaugh took over as head coach. Belichick spoke extensively about his time as head coach of the Browns when Cleveland came to New England two weeks ago. Belichick has just as much of a connection to the Ravens, though. Belichick was fired by the Browns in February 1996, just after it was announced the team would move to Baltimore.
Ozzie Newsome stayed on with the Ravens after they had moved from Cleveland as a front office executive. Newsome was named Baltimore’s general manager in 2002.
Belichick and Newsome had a great relationship when they were with the Browns together. Newsome always speaks highly of Belichick but the Patriots head coach said he learned more from Newsome than vice versa.
“He taught me an awful lot and he’s been very complimentary about his comments of what he learned from me but I think I probably learned more from him than he learned from me,” Belichick said. “He’s a very astute, sometimes quiet kind of guy, but the wheels are always turning, he’s taking a lot in. When he speaks, you listen because you respect him and you know that he’s just not saying things to hear himself talk. He’s saying them because he’s given it a lot of thought and he has a very important observation or opinion to share. He’s had a great career. I can’t think of many people that did what he did as a player and then in his current position and all the other things along the way — as a scout, as an assistant coach and so forth. He’s a pretty special person, special football person too.”
Belichick went through a laundry list of things he picked up from Newsome during their five seasons together in Cleveland. Newsome has won two Super Bowls with the Ravens, in 2000 as vice president of pro personnel and 2012 as general manager.
“He did a great job for me and I learned an awful lot from him, again because of his experience as a player and how his playing career — he was a wide receiver in college and then he became a tight end so there was a lot of development and progression of his career,” Belichick said. “Like every player, had a great career, peaked and at the end was at a different point in his career and how that whole transition worked for him. He taught me an awful lot about that and just the whole passing game, receiving, being a receiver, playing for different quarterbacks, playing in different offensive systems as he did and so forth. He was a great resource for me. ”
Newsome went straight from playing into the front office. Belichick never got to coach the Hall of Fame tight end, but he helped Newsome decide what he wanted to do after his playing career was over.
“He had retired after the ’90 season and we sat down, it’s one the first things I did when I took the job,” Belichick said. “We sat down, talked to Ozzie about his future. He wanted to have a future in the organization, he wasn’t sure if it was in coaching or scouting or some other aspect of public relations or player development or whatever it was. He did a number of different things for me there. He coached, he was in the scouting department — similar kind of maybe to what Nick [Caserio] has done here, kind of going a little bit back and forth. I think in the end probably all those experiences benefitted him because he got an appreciation of the scouting end, the player end of it — of course he had been a player so he had great familiarity of what it was like to be a player in the NFL — but scouting players, developing players, being a coach, creating game plans, making personnel decisions from a coach, as opposed to as a scout, and all those things.”
Belichick was asked how he deals with players, like running back Stevan Ridley, who have to overcome mental errors. Belichick used Newsome as an example when he was talking about players who had overcome mental mistakes.
“Take Ozzie Newsome. There’s a good example right there,” Belichick said. “When Ozzie was a rookie, he played 13 years, when he was rookie, he fumbled, lost the ball, team lost the game. Never fumbled again the rest of his career. Never fumbled again the rest of his career — 600 and 700 [662 receptions] passes, however many passes it was, however many times he touched the ball the rest of his career, never fumbled again. Why is Ozzie Newsome in the Hall of Fame? That’s why. That kind of commitment, that kind of performance. It was important enough to him. Fumbled once, didn’t fumble again the rest of his entire career. Now think about that. Want to know how a guy gets in the Hall of Fame? That’s one reason.”
Belichick spoke passionately about Newsome, which puts the Patriots’ rivalry with the Ravens in perspective. There is just as much animosity between the teams as there is respect.