Legendary NFL quarterback Ken Stabler passed away on Wednesday of colon cancer. He was 69.
Stabler is best remembered for his days with the Oakland Raiders and was one of the best QBs in the game during the 1970s and was up there with the likes of Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton, and Terry Bradshaw. Speaking of the Steelers, if not for Franco Harris catching “The Immaculate Reception” (a.k.a. “The Immaculate Deception”), Stabler would have led the Raiders to one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history in 1972 after filling in for a struggling Daryle Lamonica.
But Stabler would enjoy plenty of triumphs. Nicknamed “The Snake” from his days playing under Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama, Stabler led the Raiders to a Super Bowl title against the Minnesota Vikings. Stabler is also remembered for several famous plays. There was the “Sea of Hands” touchdown pass which gave the Raiders an AFC playoff win over Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins in December 1974. Stabler’s pass made its way into the hands of Clarence Davis despite being surrounded by three Dolphins’ defensemen. Stabler would be named the NFL MVP that year. There was also the “Ghost to the Post” pass to Dave Casper in an AFC playoff game on Christmas Eve 1977 against the Baltimore Colts which sent to the game into overtime and is still one of the longest games in NFL history.
Finally, there was the “Holy Roller” play against the San Diego Chargers the following year during an early regular season game. It looked like Stabler had been sacked by Chargers linebacker Woodrow Lowe, which would have won the game for San Diego. But Stabler fumbled the ball forward to Oakland fullback Pete Banaszak who flipped it forward to good old Dave Casper who kicked it into the endzone and then fell on the ball for the TD to give the Raiders a 21-20 win.
Stabler would also play with the Houston Oilers and the New Orleans Saints before retiring in 1984. He would also enjoy a fine career as a broadcaster both for NFL games on CBS and University of Alabama games on the radio.
Yet amazingly, Stabler was never elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Stabler lived a wild life off the field full of wine, women, and song. Legend has it that he studied game plays through the light of a jukebox. Stabler had multiple marriages, bankruptcies, and DUIs. But it’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Saints. As Terry Bradshaw put it, “Ken Stabler was better than me.”
Hall of Fame or no Hall of Fame, Stabler lived a full life and died peacefully while listening to songs by Lynyrd Skynyrd and Van Morrison. Not a bad way to go.