Each time Eric DeCosta turned down another open NFL general manager position, there were questions.
The list of interested teams included the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, (formerly) St. Louis Rams, New York Jets and, most recently, Green Bay Packers.
Now everyone knows what DeCosta and a handful of others have for the past four years. The Ravens' general-manager-in-waiting will take over in 2019.
"It's kind of a relief that it's out there and I don't have to worry about other teams or worry about people saying to me, 'What are you, an idiot? You don't want to be a GM?'" DeCosta said.
DeCosta made his first public comments about succeeding General Manager Ozzie Newsome on “The Lounge” podcast this week.
DeCosta worked his way up from being the team's first scout hired in 1996. Before that, he dreamed about it as he grew up in Massachusetts idolizing the Dallas Cowboys and innovative team builders Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt. At just 7 years old, DeCosta started crafting his own draft board.
He's been shaping the Ravens' draft board and a major part of the process for a long time in Baltimore, but soon, he'll be the leader and final decision-maker.
"It's sunk in because I've been thinking about it for 10 years," DeCosta said. "I'll be ready. I think our guys, our organization, we'll be ready. I just hope that I can do a good enough job that the organization's faith in me will be rewarded."
For now, he's not focusing on next year's transition much. After all, there's a lot of work to do in the midst of free agency and with the draft fast approaching. DeCosta is more concerned with the 2018 roster than 2019.
But the announcement from Owner Steve Bisciotti on Feb. 2 was a huge moment for the organization. After all, Newsome has been the only general manager the Ravens have ever known since the team was established 22 years ago.
What bothered DeCosta most was people thinking he was turning down other general manager jobs because he was "afraid." He held out for a while, but not because he didn't want the responsibility.
"I'm a competitive person," he said. "I've committed to Steve and had Ozzie's blessing. He's groomed me over the last four, five, six – really 10, 20 – years to be a GM. I always felt like I had Ozzie's respect and his trust and that he would give me the chance."
DeCosta said it was a blessing for him to work so closely with Newsome. Not many people around the league get that kind of hands-on-training before taking the job – especially from somebody so accomplished.
The arrangement also worked well for DeCosta's personal life. His wife is from the Baltimore area, and he's raised his family here. He's grown up in Baltimore, right alongside many of the same people, for more than two decades.
"I always felt like for me the best situation was staying here in Baltimore, working with people that I respect and love and my friends," DeCosta said.
"If things changed tomorrow and Ozzie was going to stay as GM, I'd be the happiest guy in the world because I love working with him and we have such an amazing relationship. It's never been about me and Ozzie; it's been about what's best for the Ravens. If it was best for the Ravens that Ozzie would stay as GM and I would stay as his assistant, I would be the most fortunate guy in the NFL to be a part of this organization for the next 10 or 15 or 20 years."
It will be different a year from now when DeCosta officially takes over and is the one making the final decisions on the Ravens' roster. Newsome will stay on staff in what sounds like an advisory role to DeCosta, Bisciotti, Head Coach John Harbaugh and players.
Some have wondered how that dynamic will work with DeCosta now the "boss" and Newsome still in the building. DeCosta doesn't have any concerns.
"I think a lot of times people in other organizations or businesses would struggle with these types of situations, but not me, not Ozzie," DeCosta said.
"My friendship with Ozzie is a helluva lot more important than my job. I know maybe that sounds crazy to certain people, but that's just the way that I'm wired. I really believe that I can be a great friend and also work extremely well with Ozzie."