From oil changes to Ravens GM, Eric DeCosta proves patience pays off

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Long before Thursday's introductory news conference as Baltimore Ravens general manager, Eric DeCosta joined the fledgling Ravens franchise when the team didn't have a logo on the side of its helmet and his job was equally nondescript.

In 1996, DeCosta helped everyone from the trainers to the equipment managers to public relations. He even was in charge of taking then-coach Ted Marchibroda's car in for an oil change.

Marchibroda would give DeCosta $100, and he could keep the change.

"So I found a special on Reisterstown Road that was $9.99, and I’d just keep all the rest of the money," DeCosta said with a smile.

In taking the podium for the first time as GM, he looked down at his family seated upfront, including his 7-year-old Jackson in a Lamar Jackson jersey, and saw his mentor (and former GM) Ozzie Newsome in the final row. This culminated his journey from scouting intern (1996) to Midwest scout (1998-2002) to director of college scouting (2003-2011) to assistant general manager (2012-17) to the top personnel decision-maker of the franchise.

DeCosta's ascension shows patience and loyalty pays off. He was first approached by owner Steve Bisciotti about ultimately taking over as Ravens GM in 2007, and he chose to remain with the organization despite many tempting offers.

"It has been a long wait," DeCosta said. "I've had a lot of time to sit and think about what this day would be like, and I promise that I will justify the Bisciottis' faith in me moving forward."

While DeCosta stayed, others in Baltimore's scouting department went elsewhere to become general manager, from James Harris (Jaguars) to Phil Savage (Browns) to George Kokinis (Browns). None ever achieved the same success as the Ravens.

DeCosta proved to be different, even though getting job offers turned into a yearly offseason tradition. Over the previous nine offseasons, DeCosta reportedly turned down nine teams (Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins) when they sought permission to speak to him. He declined an interview with Seattle even after getting a phone call from Seahawks owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

"For me, did I have chances? Yeah," DeCosta said. "Did I have a lot? Yeah. Did I ever really consider it? Not really. Every time I’d go to bed thinking that maybe I would consider something, I’d wake up and say, ‘What are you crazy? You know you’re going to have the job someday that you’ve dreamed about, so just wait and make it perfect.'"

During DeCosta's 41-minute media session, the primary message was he would intertwine the tried and true methods under Newsome with innovation.

In addressing free agency, he recited Newsome's "right player, right price" mantra, but he expects to be creative with the salary cap. With the draft, he sees mixing the traditional scouting methods with ever-expanding analytics.

"We’ve done a lot of really good things in the past, and we would be foolish to change things overnight," DeCosta said.

The transition from Newsome to DeCosta has been trumped as seamless by everyone in the organization. The bigger question was how DeCosta would work with coach John Harbaugh.

There had been speculation that there was conflict between them in the past. DeCosta shot down any animosity, saying they are neighbors in the Ravens' facility and in life. DeCosta and Harbaugh live about 100 yards from each other.

"I can tell you this, John is the only coach I want to work with," DeCosta said.

As for the reports of turmoil, DeCosta said, "It did bother me. All I would think to myself is, ‘We have enemies out there who are trying to create divisions and cracks and fissures and things like that.’ I get it. But it did upset me a little bit, I think, because it just wasn’t true, and it was a personal thing. It wasn’t work-related; it wasn’t a game or something that would affect the outcome of a game or strategy. It was personal, and it was simply not true."

In his first year as GM, DeCosta faces several issues, including a possible trade of quarterback Joe Flacco, the re-signing of Pro Bowl middle linebacker C.J. Mosley and potential salary-cap cuts in safety Eric Weddle, cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

All of these decisions is what made DeCosta want to become a GM when he was 6 years old. Heading into the 1978 Super Bowl, many at DeCosta's bus stop in Taunton, Massachusetts, were pulling for the Broncos. So, to be the contrarian, DeCosta rooted for the Cowboys.

"And they won that game, and I became just fascinated by the Cowboys and by Tom Landry, Gil Brandt, Tex Schramm, the whole notion of scouting and building a football team, doing things differently than other teams did back then really, really appealed to me," DeCosta said. "So this has really been something over the course of my life that I always just dreamed about being: a general manager for an NFL team."