Phoenix — When the Lions cut quarterback Charlie Batch before the 2002 season, he never expected to have a chance to win one Super Bowl, let alone two.
As it turns out, that decision might have been the best thing that ever happened to Batch as it gave him a chance to be a backup for his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers for much of the next 11 years, winning titles in the 2005 and 2008 seasons.
"Obviously I would've loved to do that in Detroit, but I didn't have the opportunity because when Matt Millen came in, he wanted his own guys and he got rid of me," Batch said.
With the Lions drafting Joey Harrington third overall in 2002 and Batch proving to be injury prone during his four years in Detroit, Millen cut him. And when Batch won his first Super Bowl with the Steelers, he did so with five other players cast aside by the Lions — defensive end Travis Kirschke, guard Jeff Hartings, offensive tackle Barrett Brooks, cornerback Chidi Iwuoma and linebacker Clint Kriewaldt.
"So when all of that happened and you see six players that were on the Pittsburgh team that was in Detroit at one particular time, we all took a team picture and we thanked Matt Millen for cutting us," Batch said.
Batch, 40, has been out of football the past two years, last playing in 2012 when he made two starts for the injured Ben Roethlisberger, including a win in Baltimore. Now, he's working as an analyst for the Steelers Radio Network and assisting with his Best of the Batch Foundation, which helps provide services to 3,100 children in distressed communities annually. He's also helping with the NFL Players Association's The Trust, which helps players transition to life after football.
Looking back on his career, Batch used the word "phenomenal." He had a chance to grow up in the Detroit area, playing at Eastern Michigan before the Lions drafted him in the second round in 1998, and had a chance to start as a rookie. After Millen cut him, he returned to Pittsburgh, the area where he was born and raised.
"I think this is something that when you look at it overall, for me to be home and do it for the hometown team, I was truly blessed to be able to do so," he said.
And even though the Lions cut him, Batch still supports them, though his final remaining teammate Dominic Raiola just played his last season in Detroit. Playing in the AFC made it easier for Batch to pull for the Lions.
"Of course I always rooted for those guys," he said. "You want to see them go out there and continue to have success. I was hoping this would be the year. Coach Caldwell was up there. Obviously, it didn't unfold the way that they would hope but hopefully they're on the right way."
Batch doesn't have much of a relationship with quarterback Matthew Stafford, but sees plenty of potential in the Lions signal caller.
"Hopefully, he's that guy that can take them to a championship," Batch said.