Ken Stabler, the leader of the renegade Raiders teams of the 1970s, posthumously will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in Canton, Ohio.
The fun-loving left-hander who studied playbooks by the light of the jukebox and was at his best in NFL games with names – The Holy Roler, Sea of Hands, Immaculate Reception and Ghost to the Post – led the Raiders to their first Super Bowl championship in 1976, was named NFL MVP in 1974 and was a member of the league’s 1970s All Decade Team.
Stabler threw more interceptions than touchdowns, completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes, and posted a quarterback rating of 90 or better just twice in 15 NFL seasons. But the numbers don’t tell the full story of one of NFL’s most iconic players, whose style and flair for the dramatic made him loved by teammates and feared by opponents, especially if the ball was in his hands late in a close game.
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“Sometimes we forget how smart Kenny Stabler was,” said John Madden, his former coach who will present Stabler in a pre-recorded video at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “He was a brilliant quarterback with a brilliant football mind. He would set things up. There’s a thing that they don’t even judge anymore, called field general. Ken Stabler was a true field general. The offensive players really believed and followed him. Anything that came out of his mouth, they totally believed.”
Madden called the shaggy-haired Stabler, whose wild style on the field and off helped earn him the nickname “The Snake,” the perfect Raider. Madden said if he had one drive to win a game and could choose any quarterback who ever played to lead it, Stabler would be his choice.
“The hotter the game, the hotter I got, and Kenny was truly just the opposite; the hotter the game, the cooler he became,” Madden said.
Stabler died in July 2015 died at age 69 from complications of colon cancer.
“I always believed that Kenny should have been in the Hall of Fame before,” Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff, said of his friend and former teammate. “I know it’s a tough process for guys to get into the Hall of Fame. I was always disappointed that his name wasn’t brought up to the top year after year. I know it was there, but it was never a big factor. This year with that happening, I love it. I know it means the world to his family.”
Compiled by Stu Rosenberg