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Eric DeCosta Will Lean More on 'Moneyball' Analytics as General Manager

Posted Mar 21, 2018

Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said the Ravens have been compiling and organizing data for years, and are now at the point where they could see some ‘cool things in the next five years.’

When Eric DeCosta’s wife was in labor with the couple’s daughter in 2003, he was in the waiting room reading “Moneyball.”

The book, which has since been made into a movie, is about Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane’s outside-the-box use of analytics to make decisions.

“I thought this is really kind of revolutionary,” DeCosta said on “The Lounge” podcast. “How will this impact sports? What will be the impact on football moving forward?”

As DeCosta prepares to take over as the Ravens’ general manager in 2019, people are wondering how he’ll be different from Ozzie Newsome, the man who groomed him for the past 22 years.

While DeCosta said he won’t try to reinvent the wheel, his use of analytics may be one of the biggest differences. DeCosta said Newsome is probably the better talent evaluator, but his 46-year-old assistant is a bit more tech savvy.

“I’m younger. That’s probably the trend,” DeCosta said. “I appreciate information, I appreciate people who can take information and either find trends or find loopholes or find patterns or things that we could exploit, ways to gain advantage.”

DeCosta and the Ravens have a pair of analytics specialists in the player personnel department in Football Systems Developer David McDonald and Player Evaluation & Analytics Manager Corey Krawiec.

DeCosta said it took football about 10 years to get to the point where teams began starting to make decisions with analytics, but it’s only starting to take off now. DeCosta said the Ravens are at the point now where they have enough organized data to see trends.

“I’m really excited about what we’ve been able to do in the last five years, and I think the next five years are going to really show what we can really do,” DeCosta said.

“We have some really smart people using the data and building models and algorithms and things and looking for ways to exploit the information. I think we’re really going to start to see some cool things in the next five years.”

It's certainly a different strategy than that of new Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden, who said he's trying to "throw the game back to 1998" and questioned teams' ability to interpret data.

DeCosta also talked about how he wants to be “creative, organized and responsible” with the salary cap. He’s thankful that Owner Steve Bisciotti and the Ravens spend to the limit, but Baltimore has been hamstrung in recent years to keep some of its big free agents or sign others.

Baltimore has the 11th-most dead money heading into the 2018 season at $9.1 million, according to Spotrac. It can be the result of restructuring deals and releasing players before their contract expires.

“I think that’s a critical thing for us moving forward,” DeCosta said. “I want us to be innovative with the salary cap; I want us to be ahead of the curve.”

With all that said, DeCosta knows Newsome has done things the right way for a very long time. Newsome built two Super Bowl-winning teams, drafted 18 Pro Bowlers and a pair of Hall of Famers with his first two picks (Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden). He will add a third in Ed Reed and could get a fourth with Terrell Suggs.

Since winning Super Bowl XLVII during the 2012 season, however, the Ravens have drafted just two Pro Bowlers in linebacker C.J. Mosley and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

“I think what we’ve done has been pretty successful over the years. You have your ups and downs, but in general I think people would look at Ozzie’s regime and his tenure and say it’s been a smashing success,” DeCosta said.

“Anybody coming into a situation like that would be foolish to try and just blow everything up and make tremendous change. That would be foolhardy.”

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