On July 9, the NFL, as well as the Oakland Raiders’ organization, said goodbye to one of the most charismatic and talented players that ever suited up and took the field. Former quarterback Ken Stabler died at the age of 69.
Stabler was drafted by the Raiders out of the University of Alabama in 1968. He saw limited action during the first five years of his career, but finally got his chance to play in 1973. Stabler showed flashes of brilliance as a passer and in 1974, he became the starter.
His strong arm, heroics under pressure and clutch finishes when the game was on the line were all key elements of the way he played throughout his career. Those elements helped him earn “The Snake” as his nickname.
With Stabler under center, Oakland won many games that went down to the wire, particularly in the playoffs. Examples include the 1974 “Sea of Hands” game against the Dolphins, Stabler’s winning touchdown run in the final seconds to beat the Patriots in 1976, and the famous “Ghost to the Post” play which beat the Colts in a 1977 double-overtime classic.
Stabler played ten seasons for the Raiders. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, a first-team All-Pro selection and league MVP in 1974. He was also the NFL’s leader in touchdown passes in both 1974 and 1976.
In fact, Stabler had his best season in 1976 when he completed a career-high 66.7% of his passes for 2,737-yards and 27 touchdowns. Stabler also led Oakland to a 13-1 regular season record. The Raiders went on to defeat the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, in Super Bowl XI.
Four years later, Stabler was traded to the Houston Oilers for Dan Pastorini. Stabler played for the Oilers for two seasons, leading them to the playoffs in 1980. He spent the final three years of his career with the New Orleans Saints before hanging up the cleats for good in 1984.
When Stabler departed out of Oakland following the 1979 season, he left as the Raiders’ all-time leader in completions (1,486) and touchdown passes (150). To this day, he still remains as Oakland’s all-time leading passer with 19,078-yards.
During his retirement, Stabler has participated in other activities, such as broadcasting and charitable work. He worked as a color commentator for the NFL on CBS and as a radio broadcaster for Alabama football games.
Although Stabler left the broadcast booth in 2008, he was still the chairman of the XOXO Stabler Foundation. The foundation’s objective was to raise funds and build awareness for charitable causes. Stabler often held celebrity golf tournaments to raise money.
Stabler is a three-time Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist. However, despite being on the threshold of being inducted, he has yet to hold his place in Canton. He is a member of both the Bay Area and Mobile Sports Halls of Fame.
Whether he was throwing touchdown passes on the football field or drinking vodka at the local bar, Ken Stabler always amazed his fellow teammates and patrons. When Raiders fans look back on his career, they will remember a man who played hard and made his mark every Sunday.