Ken Stabler: Alabama hero, Raiders legend, and part-time DJ. From his two national championships under Bear Bryant, to his victory in Super Bowl XI, "The Snake" has been one of the greatest quarterbacks under pressure to ever walk on a football field.
Kenneth Michael Stabler was born on December 25, 1945, to Leroy and Sally Stabler in Foley, Alabama. Ken was gifted in sports, and in high school lettered in basketball, baseball, and football. In 9th grade, however, Leroy convinced Ken that football was his future - by offering him a car to focus on the gridiron. Ken agreed, and became the star quarterback for his high school team. It was here that he earned his nickname "The Snake", for his dashing, weaving runs downfield. After graduation, Stabler was wooed by many top universities, bu eventually settled on the University of Alabama, headed by the great Bear Bryant.
His choice paid off as Alabama won the 1965 national championship his freshman year, although he spent most of the time on the bench. In 1966, he continued as the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide and led them to an 11-0 record and a win in the Orange Bowl. The following year, the team went 8-1-1 and Stabler again led the team to a major bowl, where they won the Sugar Bowl. At college, Ken was a two-time All-American and All-SEC quarterback, and in the spring he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders.
For his first three years, Ken sat on the bench with the Raiders languished in the middle of the pack in the AFL. Ken's real start in the NFL began at the same time as Oakland began play in the newly formed AFC. He showed a great ability to scramble, and played in every game in 1971 and 1972, coming in to mop up at the end of most games. He also worked with the legendary George Blanda and Oakland star Daryle Lamonica to prepare himself for the different rigors of professional football play.
Finally in 1973, Stabler took his place as the starting quarterback for the Raiders. In his first season, he threw for nearly 2000 yards and completed 62.7% of his passes. He also showed off his fleet feet, but coach John Madden put a stop to his runs, wishing to avoid any mishaps with his new star. In 1974, Ken released the beast within, throwing for 26 touchdowns to lead the league and was named AFC Player of the Year for his efforts, along with being named to his second Pro Bowl as starting quarterback.
The Snake Strikes
1975 saw The Snake in fine passing form, but also slightly erratic, throwing 24 interceptions. Still, the Raiders managed to make the playoffs, and though they lost in the second round (after a rousing victory in the opening round due to the famous Sea of Hands play), it was the first step towards the top for Stabler and crew. In 1976, Ken had one of the finest seasons of any quarterback in NFL history at the time. He completed 194 passes for 27 touchdowns and an astounding 9.4 yards per attempt. The Raiders again made the playoffs, and slipped into the AFC Conference Championship, where they faced their immortal league rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had stolen their chances at the Super Bowl in 1972 with the Immaculate Reception and the year prior with Lynn Swann's gutsy receiving. The Raiders showed the Steeler team no mercy throughout the game, and Stabler dissected the famed Pitt defense to take the victory 24-7. In the Super Bowl, they faced the Purple People Eaters of the Minnesota Vikings, and although Stabler struggled through the first quarter, his brilliance shone through and the Raiders captured their first championship in Super Bowl XI.
In 1977 the Raiders again reached the conference title, but were narrowly defeated by the Denver Broncos. Stabler's season was middling, showing his good side (20 TDs, 2176 yards passing) and his bad (20 interceptions). His unreliable passing continued to haunt him in 1978 and 1979, and the Raiders failed to make the playoffs. Already 34 years old, Stabler was traded to the Houston Oilers in the offseason. He left Oakland as their all-time leader in yards, completions, touchdowns, attempts, and victories.
Snake Oil Salesman
With the Oilers, Stabler held the key position in the highly-touted Run n Gun offense. He threw for 3202 yards on 293 completions, and took Houston to the playoffs, where he faced off against his old crew from Oakland. Unfortunately, Stabler's knees were already giving out on him, and he and the Oilers hobbled back to Houston in defeat. He stuck out one more season with the Oilers, and again he was handed off, this time to the New Orleans Saints, where Stabler played in 25 games over three seasons, and then retired at the end of 1984, nearly 40 years old and ready for the challenges of life after football.
The Snake hasn't shed his football skin quite yet since retiring. He coaches his own son's high school football team in Mobile, Alabama, and occasionally appears with other former NFL greats for goodwill tours and speaking engagements. He also performs a weekly radio show entitled "Snake's Take" where he discusses sports with callers and guests. He also works with the Crimson Tide Sports Network, providing color commentary to all Alabama home games. Ken has also dabbled a bit in film, appearing in the movies Unnecessary Roughness and The Indian Runner, and playing himself in an episode of "Married ... with Children". Ken himself is married with three children and three grandchildren. But don't worry: the tenacious hero of young still lives on at The Snake's website, www.kenstabler.com, and in the hearts of Raiders and 'Bama fans everywhere.
YEAR TEAM G COMP ATT PCT YD Y/A TD INT | ATT YD TD
1970 OAK 3 2 7 28.6 52 7.4 0 1 | 1 -4 0
1971 OAK 14 24 48 50.0 268 5.6 1 4 | 4 29 2
1972 OAK 14 44 74 59.5 524 7.1 4 3 | 6 27 0
1973 OAK 14 163 260 62.7 1997 7.7 14 10 | 21 101 0
1974 OAK 14 178 310 57.4 2469 8.0 26 12 | 12 -2 1
1975 OAK 14 171 293 58.4 2296 7.8 16 24 | 6 -5 0
1976 OAK 12 194 291 66.7 2737 9.4 27 17 | 7 -2 1
1977 OAK 13 169 294 57.5 2176 7.4 20 20 | 3 -3 0
1978 OAK 16 237 406 58.4 2944 7.3 16 30 | 4 0 0
1979 OAK 16 304 498 61.0 3615 7.3 26 22 | 16 -4 0
1980 HOU 16 293 457 64.1 3202 7.0 13 28 | 15 -22 0
1981 HOU 13 165 285 57.9 1988 7.0 14 18 | 10 -3 0
1982 NOR 8 117 189 61.9 1343 7.1 6 10 | 3 -4 0
1983 NOR 14 176 311 56.6 1988 6.4 9 18 | 9 -14 0
1984 NOR 3 33 70 47.1 339 4.8 2 5 | 1 -1 0
CAREER 184 2270 3793 59.8 27938 7.4 194 222 | 118 93 4
* Bold denotes led league.
- www.kenstabler.com (official site)