Ken Stabler was 1970s football.
If Stabler were to be in the spotlight today, he'd be part Brett Favre, part Kid Rock. He was the poster boy of the renegade Oakland Raiders, then the NFL's bad boys.
Stabler, born on Christmas Day 1945, in Foley, Alabama, died Thursday. He was 69.
"The Snake" was almost as famous for Saturday night as he was for Sunday afternoons. I've heard too many stories about Stabler getting yanked out of taverns after the sun came up on game day to not believe at least some of them were true.
But come kickoff, the swashbuckling Alabama product was all-in. The left-handed Stabler was the glue of a Raiders team that featured several Pro Football Hall of Famers and won Super Bowl XI on Jan. 9, 1977, over the Minnesota Vikings.
The Raiders drafted Stabler out of Alabama in 1968. He was a perfect Al Davis player: brash, fun-loving and supremely gifted. He was also the perfect quarterback to lead the Raiders from their original AFL days to the new-school NFL. He settled in as the Raiders' starting quarterback in 1973 after a rocky start to his professional career.
From 1973 to '79, Stabler was the starter of the most exciting team of the 1970s. While the Raiders won just one Super Bowl during that span, they won 74 regular-season games and seven postseason games during Stabler's tenure as a starter.
Stabler was famous for leading breathtaking comebacks (he had 23 career comebacks in the fourth quarter or overtime) and doing it in style. No Oakland fan will ever forget the "Sea of Hands" game-winning touchdown drive against Miami in the 1974 playoffs.
For my money, Stabler, whose family released a statement saying he died of colon cancer, belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with the likes of his former Oakland teammates, including Willie Brown, Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Fred Biletnikoff, Dave Casper and coach John Madden.
If Stabler is going to be enshrined in Canton it will require one of his patented comebacks. Stabler, a finalist for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame three times, has been eligible for Seniors Committee consideration since 2009. Perhaps he will get enough support to earn enshrinement through that route.
Stabler, who finished his career with the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints, doesn't have eye-popping career numbers. He completed 2,270 of his 3,793 passes for 27,938 yards. He threw 28 more interceptions (222) than touchdown passes (194) in his career.
Yet, Stabler threw 150 touchdown passes from 1970 to '79. It was the third most in that decade. The other four QBs in the top five from the 1970s are in the Hall of Fame. Stabler is the only quarterback who started and won a Super Bowl in the 1970s who isn’t a member of the Hall of Fame.
Stabler was the face of one of the most unforgettable teams in NFL history. He has a Super Bowl ring. He did it with style and he was part of the fabric of the NFL's golden age. He was the Snake and should live in football immortality.