Home » Sports » Smallthoughts:Old School Tuesday…Ken Stabler

Smallthoughts:Old School Tuesday…Ken Stabler

Start here


Ken the Snake StablerStablerStabler the raider

Stabler was drafted in the second round of the 1968 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. He didn’t get a chance to play until 1970, and during 1968-69 spent time playing with Spokane in the Continental Football League.[4] Stabler first attracted attention in the NFL in a 1972 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. After entering the game in relief of Daryle Lamonica, he scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 30-yard scramble. The Steelers, however, came back to win on a controversial, deflected pass from Terry Bradshaw to Franco Harris, known in football lore as the Immaculate Reception.

After suffering severe knee injuries, Stabler became less a scrambling quarterback and more a classic, drop-back passer, known for accurate passes and an uncanny ability to lead late, come-from-behind drives. During the peak of his career, he had a receiving corps consisting of sprinter and multiple Hall of Fame finalist Cliff Branch, Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff, and Hall of Fame tight end Dave Casper. The Raiders’ philosophy was to pound teams with their running game, then stretch them with their long passing game. Although Stabler lacked remarkable arm strength, he was a master of the long pass to Branch, and accurate on intermediate routes to Biletnikoff and Casper. As a starter in Oakland, Stabler was named AFC player of the year in 1974 and 1976, and was the NFL’s passing champion in 1976. In January 1977 he guided the Raiders to their first Super Bowl victory, a 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings. In the 1977 AFC playoffs against the Baltimore Colts, Stabler completed a legendary fourth-quarter pass to Casper to set up a game-tying field goal by Errol Mann. This play, dubbed the “Ghost to the Post,” sent the game to overtime; the Raiders won 37-31 after Stabler threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Casper.

After subpar 1978 and 1979 seasons in which the Raiders failed to make the playoffs- primarily due to the retirement and departures of key contributors during the Super Bowl run in 1976 (most notably head coach John Madden, George Atkinson, Clarence Davis, and Fred Biletnikoff – Stabler was traded to the Oilers for Dan Pastorini prior to the 1980 season, after a lengthy contract holdout. Stabler left the Raiders as their all-time leader in completions (1,486), passing yards (19,078), and touchdown passes (150). The Oilers, in turn, saw Stabler as the missing ingredient that could finally get them past the rival Steelers and into the Super Bowl. However Houston lacked the exceptional talent on offense that Stabler had thrived with in Oakland, as Earl Campbell and Casper- who was also acquired in a trade from the Raiders- were the few potent weapons they had. Meanwhile, Pastorini lost the starting job in Oakland to Jim Plunkett after an injury, and Plunkett then led the Raiders over Stabler and the Oilers in the playoffs. Bum Phillips was fired shortly after the season. Without the popular head coach that rejuvenated an otherwise woeful Houston franchise, Stabler had a mediocre season in 1981 but re-joined Bum Phillips by signing with the Saints in 1982. By this time, however, the 37-year-old Stabler was no longer in his prime and the Saints were also a dismal franchise. After 3 unsuccessful seasons that were plagued by injuries and a quarterback controversy with veteran Richard Todd, Stabler retired in the middle of the 1984 season.

Stabler was known for studying his playbook by the light of a nightclub jukebox and for his affinity for female fans[citation needed]. As Hall of Fame guard Gene Upshaw said, “When we were behind in the fourth quarter, with our backs to our end zone, no matter how he had played up to that point, we could look in his eyes and you knew, you knew, he was going to win it for us. That was an amazing feeling.”

Stabler was the fastest to win 100 games as a starting quarterback, having done so in 150 games, which bettered Johnny Unitas‘ previous mark of 153 games. Since then, only Terry Bradshaw in 147 games, Joe Montana in 139 games and Tom Brady in 131 games have reached 100 wins more quickly.[5] Stabler is also the only quarterback from the NFL’s All-1970’s team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In a recent NFL feature listing the top 10 players not in the Hall of Fame, Stabler was listed at number six, partly due to his off-field scandals,[6] which in the 1970s were less prominent, or it could be that he never emulated the success he achieved in Oakland.

In the early part of 1974, Stabler and several NFL stars agreed to join the newly created World Football League. Stabler signed a contract to play for the Birmingham Americans. “I’m as happy as can be. Getting with a super organization and the financial benefits were key factors, but the biggest thing to me is getting back home. Getting to play before the people in the South is where it’s at for me. In two years I’ll be in Birmingham if I have to hitchhike,” he said. “If I can do for the WFL what Joe Namath did for the AFL, I will feel that I have really accomplished something. I was born in the South and raised in the South and played football in the South. Oakland could have offered me as much money as Birmingham but they couldn’t have let me play in the South.” The WFL would end up folding mid-way through the 1975 season, and Stabler remained in the NFL without ever playing in the WFL.

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes one of my all time favorites…Ken the Snake Stabler

Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
TDINT 194–222
Yards 27,938
QB Rating 75.3
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: