To all my fans, my friends, and most importantly my family. THANK YOU FOR ALL THE SUPPORT!
I am writing this just hours after MBL Super Bowl 35, knowing that I have played my last MBL game, and for the first time in my career I feel validated. This is what we play for, right? Winning an MBL Super Bowl was always the goal but after MBL season 34 with the Chargers I felt pretty content to just hang it up. I told my agent to sit back and lets play it by ear. Honestly, my body was breaking down and I felt it. It was time to hang it up, but as many atheltes do, I went back and forth about the idea of retirement at age 37. Eventually I just told my agent I would leave the door open throughout the preseason. I mean f' it, if a championship contender gets an injury at QB i'm here, I can still contribute....something, hell I can game manage the quarterback position in my sleep. Not to mention, this kind of opportunity is what we play for, right? So I called up Jimmy Sexton, my agent, and said "Here's the deal, only call me if it's a legit contender." then I hung up. I was still content with retirement, but I wasn't ready to completely shut the door just yet.
Preseason Week 3 the phone rings. Yeah you know where this is going, I get it, but it wasn't as simple as you might think. When I first heard Detroit, I told my agent "Great, Martavis Bryant is a wide receiver on the verge of turning into a superstar. The were really active in free agency spending some big time cash on the defensive side of the ball. This could work. Maybe not the top contender they used to be, but the hope is still there. I'm in!" Jimmy quickly told me that it was more of a wait and see situation. The injury to Josh Allen wasn't necessarily the opportunity I was looking for, as Josh Allen was heading to New York in a trade that would give Detroit some future picks, and Case Keenum was considered by the team as the starter moving forward. The wait and see was whether the team would have enough cap space to offer me a contract, since they would still be on the hook for Josh Allen's contract until he cleared his injury to complete the trade to New York. Well, this started off in a very weird situation. I told my agent to reply to the feeler and tell them that if the money is right then I am interested. With all this confusion, and a definitive answer from the Lions front office that Case was going to be the starter moving forward, I knew this was likely going to be a sideline clipboard kind of deal. Hey i'm a team player, lets do it...but its going to cost you about 12 million. About 3 days later the Lions told my agent they worked out Matt Barkley, but they felt that my resume' speaks for itself and we agreed to a 1 year 11.8 million dollar deal.
The deal is done, i'm headed to Detroit. I told the media in Detroit that Case was the starter, and im here to support him in any way that I can. Detroit made it very clear to me since day one that I wasn't the starter, but the reason they paid me this kind of money (more than what they were paying Case) was because if they ever needed a hero they believed I could be that guy. Funny how things work out right? As I said at the beginning, my body at 38 now is starting to breakdown on me and whether or not my ego wanted to accept a backup opportunity my body was telling me this was the right choice. Preseason Week 4, my first game with the Lions I partially tore my right shoulder, and what was supposed to be a 1-2 week injury, the Lions medical team decided to play it safe and put me on the shelf for 4 weeks. This wasn't a big set back for the team, as I was just the backup at the time, well until Case went down in Week 2. Then it went to the weirdest 2 weeks ive seen in my MBL football career. The amount of quarterbacks coming for workouts in 48 hours was a sight to see. I think at that point I realized this might get crazy enough to where I end up at the starter for this team. Well...maybe just wishful thinking from an old man trying to prove he still has it. Matt Barkley gets the sign, as expected, starts a few games and then I get cleared to play Week 4 vs Atlanta. I'm thinking to myself at this point...damn why couldn't I have just came back a week early to walk into a game vs Tennessee. Maybe the old man wants to walk back into it a little slower. haha. The Falcons have a very fast and aggressive pass coverage and I went out there and did exactly what the Lions hoped I could do at 38.
Game Manage the offense - CHECK
No Interceptions - CHECK
Win the Game - CHECK
and a bonus scramble for 9 yards - THAT WAS FOR FREE.
We defeated the Falcons 17-3 and that really got me thinking that this Lions defense might be the real deal. Case came back in Week 6 and started the rest of the season. He is a good kid and a solid quarterback that I consider a friend throughout this final chapter of my career. It's a weird spot to be in, an injury of another player turns into the biggest break of my MBL career. I guess everything happens for a reason, and when Case Keenum went down vs the Giants (YES THE JOSH ALLEN LED GIANTS!) late in the game when it was tied 20-20 I came in and went 2-2 29 yards and solidified our FG as what we called in Detroit a "Chippy". Matt Patricia told me "Hey, go get us in chippy range. The Defense going to take us home" Once again my ego was saying, lets get 6 but at 38 year old and I haven't thrown a game pass in 10 weeks a "chippy" didn't sound too bad. Just as Coach Patricia told me before I took the field..I got us in range, and the defense won the game on an interception. This is when the mastermind that is Coach Matt Patricia really started to take over. He broke the news to me that I was starting the rest of the playoffs, Case was shutdown with a dislocated ankle. Tough break for the kid. Coach told me an hour before the Seattle game that he wanted me to be aggressive, drive the ball down the field, and show the entire league that we are now more dangerous as a deep threat team with me under center. I nodded my head, and went out there like a 25 year old version of myself going 11-14 253 yards 3 TD 0 INT. The confidence our team had after the Seattle game was exactly the shot in the arm we needed to start believing we could win it all!
The Dallas game I picked my spots to attack and relied heavily on the defense to play the field position game. I went 14-23 295 yards 1 TD and 0 INT. At 38 years old, going from my couch in preseason week 3 to an injury in preseason week 4 in my debut game with Detroit and now we are headed to Super Bowl 35 in Tampa. Everything happens for a reason. I believe it now. After the battle in Dallas I grabbed Matt Patricia after the game, and thanked him for the opportunity and the confidence he had in me. I told him whatever happens in the Super Bowl, just know that I am going to leave it all on the field. As the cinderella story continued the media continued to bring up a future for me with the Lions, but I knew this was it for me. My body has had enough, I really believed I had one game left in the tank and I was going to be damn sure that I left everything out there. As the Super Bowl quickly turned into the Malik Hali and Myles Jack show, I knew what my job was going to be during this game. No turnovers, and put Malik in a position to take over. I even audibled to a read option inside the red zone and Malik took it to the house. This kid was electric and I couldn't be more happier for him. We got to the sidelines and he asked me why I didn't keep the option. haha. Maybe they never would have seen it coming? haha.
:::Confettit Falling::: I hug Matt Patricia and he looks me in the eye and says "This is what we play for, right?" Nothing can explain the glory of a Super Bowl win. My last game, I'm going out as a champion. So I wrote this to say thank you for all the support, and for never giving up on this old man. I went through the playoffs without throwing an interception, without turning the ball over. I'll always pride myself on that performance, and i'll never forget this city. Thank You and Goodbye!
-Phillip Rivers (Detroit Forever)