Ken Stabler
refer to caption
Stabler in 2007
No. 12, 16
Personal information
Born:(1945-12-25)December 25, 1945
Foley, Alabama, U.S.
Died:July 8, 2015(2015-07-08) (aged 69)
Gulfport, Mississippi, U.S.
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:215 lb (98 kg)
Career information
High school:Foley
College:Alabama (1964–1967)
NFL draft:1968 / Round: 2 / Pick: 52
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Passing attempts:3,793
Passing completions:2,270
Completion percentage:59.8%
Passing yards:27,938
Passer rating:75.3
Player stats at · PFR

Kenneth Michael Stabler (December 25, 1945 – July 8, 2015) was an American professional football quarterback who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 17 seasons, primarily with the Oakland Raiders. Nicknamed "Snake", he played college football at Alabama and was selected by the Raiders in the second round of the 1968 NFL Draft. During his 10 seasons in Oakland, Stabler received four Pro Bowl selections and was named Most Valuable Player in 1974. Stabler also helped the Raiders win their first Super Bowl title in Super Bowl XI. He was posthumously inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.[1]

High school career

Stabler became a highly touted football player at Foley High School in Foley, Alabama. He led Foley to a win–loss record of 29–1 over his high school football career—the only loss coming against Vigor High School. He was an all-around athlete in high school, averaging 29 points a game in basketball and excelling enough as a left-handed pitcher in baseball to receive minor-league contract offers from the Houston Astros and New York Yankees. He was an all-American athlete. During his high school career, he earned his nickname "Snake"[2] from his coach following a long, winding touchdown run.

College career

Stabler was recruited by head coach Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Due to NCAA regulations at the time, freshmen were ineligible to play on the varsity in the University Division. Stabler was on the freshman team in 1964, when the Crimson Tide won the National Championship with quarterbacks Joe Namath and Steve Sloan. Despite being named National Champions, Alabama lost their bowl game, falling to the Texas Longhorns in the 1965 Orange Bowl.

As a sophomore in 1965, Stabler was used sparingly as a back-up to Sloan at quarterback,[3] following Namath's departure to the AFL. That year, the Crimson Tide won their second consecutive National Championship, finishing the season with a record of 9–1–1. The team defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Orange Bowl, 39–28.

As a junior in 1966, he took over the starting quarterback position. He led the team to an undefeated, 11–0 season which ended in a 34–7 rout of Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl. Despite the unblemished record, Alabama was snubbed by the polls, finishing third behind Notre Dame and Michigan State, neither of which played in a bowl.

Expectations were high in Stabler's senior season, though those expectations would not be completely fulfilled. The offense often struggled in 1967, and the defense's performance slipped. During the season, Bryant kicked Stabler off the team for cutting class and partying, though he was given a second chance.[4] The Tide finished with an 8–2–1 record, including a loss to rival Tennessee. Though the season was lackluster, Stabler would provide a memorable moment in the Iron Bowl. Trailing 3–0 in a game drenched by rain, Stabler scampered through the mud for a 47-yard, game-winning touchdown which gave the Tide a 7–3 victory over rival Auburn at Legion Field. The play is commonly referred to as the "Run in the Mud" in Alabama football lore.[5]

College statistics

NCAA collegiate career statistics
Alabama Crimson Tide
Season Passing Rushing
Cmp Att Yds Pct TD Int Rtg Att Yds Avg TD
1965 3 11 26 27.3 0 0 47.1 61 328 5.4 1
1966 74 114 956 64.9 9 5 152.6 93 397 4.3 3
1967 103 178 1,214 57.9 9 13 117.2 111 113 1.0 5
Career 180 303 2,196 59.4 18 18 128.0 265 838 3.2 9

Professional career

Stabler was selected in the second round of the 1968 NFL/AFL draft by the Oakland Raiders, the reigning AFL champions. He was the fifth quarterback taken, after Greg Landry, Eldridge Dickey, Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban, and Mike Livingston.[6] He was also drafted to play baseball by the New York Yankees in 1966, the New York Mets in 1967, and the Houston Astros in 1968.[7]

Stabler signed a two-year contract with the Raiders in March 1968.[8] In November, the Raiders sent Stabler to Spokane, Washington, to play for the Spokane Shockers of the Continental Football League.[9][10][11] He played in two games for the Shockers before being recalled by the Raiders in late November.[12][13][14] In July 1969, Stabler left the Raiders.[15] However, in November 1969, Stabler said "I'll be back in pro football come June."[16][17] In January 1970, it was reported that Stabler and Raiders head coach John Madden agreed that Stabler would return to the Raiders for training camp in July.[18] Stabler made his first regular season appearance as a Raider in 1970. He first attracted attention in the NFL in a 1972 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. After entering the game in relief of a flu-ridden 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, later known in football lore as the Immaculate Reception.[19]

After having 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 Cliff Branch, sure handed receiver Fred Biletnikoff, and tight end Dave Casper. All three of Stabler's receivers would ultimately end up in the Hall of Fame. The Raiders' philosophy was to pound teams with their running game (aided by multiple-time Pro Bowler Marv Hubbard at fullback, and Clarence Davis at tailback), 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 decisive 32–14 win over the Minnesota Vikings at the Rose Bowl.[20][21]

Stabler was awarded the Hickok Belt for 1976, as the year's top professional sports athlete.

In the 1977 AFC playoffs against the Baltimore Colts on Christmas Eve, 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 double overtime, which the visiting Raiders won 37–31, after Stabler threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Casper.[22][23][24] In the second game of 1978 on September 10, the Holy Roller (Immaculate Deception) Game saw Oakland win 21–20 at San Diego after a fourth quarter forward fumble by Stabler was caught and forward-fumbled by two other players to score a touchdown and win the game.[25][26][27] This caused the Ken Stabler Rule to be enacted in 1979, permitting only the fumbling player to recover the ball during a fourth down play, or during any down played after the two-minute warning in a half or overtime.

After subpar 1978 and 1979 seasons in which the Raiders failed to make the playoffs and saw the departure of many team leaders from the Super Bowl run – Clarence Davis, Skip Thomas, George Atkinson, Fred Biletnikoff, Willie Brown, and head coach John Madden – Stabler was traded in March 1980 to the Oilers for Dan Pastorini.[28] He left as the Raiders' all-time leader in completions (1,486), passing yards (19,078), and touchdown passes (150). The Oilers saw Stabler as the missing ingredient that could finally get them past the rival Steelers and into the Super Bowl. 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 to a win in Super Bowl XV, which included a playoff win over the Oilers in the wild card game. Houston head coach Bum Phillips was fired shortly after the season, succeeded by defensive coordinator Ed Biles.

Without the popular head coach that rejuvenated an otherwise woeful Houston franchise, Stabler did not report to training camp in 1981 and announced his retirement through his agent on July 23.[29][30] After five weeks and an injury to projected starter Gifford Nielsen, he returned to the Oilers in late August and signed a two-year contract.[31][32] He had a mediocre season, as Houston went 7–9 and missed the playoffs.

Released by the Oilers after the season, Stabler re-joined Phillips in New Orleans in late August.[33] (Dave Wilson had a season-ending knee injury on August 12.)[34] In mid-September, the Saints traded longtime starter Archie Manning for offensive tackle Leon Gray.[35] By this time, however, the 37-year-old Stabler was past his prime and the Saints were still a fairly dismal franchise. The first year was interrupted by a two-month players' strike; New Orleans was 4–5 and narrowly missed the expanded playoffs. The 1983 season was his best as a Saint. He started 14 games, and while the team's record in those games was only 7–7, Stabler was the starter for the final game of the season, in New Orleans, against the division rival Los Angeles Rams. Had the Saints won that game, they would have finished 9–7 and reached their first trip to the playoffs. But the Rams pulled out the victory late in the 4th quarter, 26–24. The Saints then acquired New York Jets veteran Richard Todd, who like Stabler played for Bryant at Alabama, before the 1984 season and Stabler retired in the middle of that season, in late October.[36][37]

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.[38] Stabler was also the first NFL quarterback to retire with at least 200 passing yards per game in the playoffs (minimum 10 playoff appearances).

In the early part of 1974, Stabler and several NFL stars agreed to join the newly created World Football League. He 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 folded midway through the 1975 season, and Stabler remained in the NFL without ever playing in the WFL.

Stabler was named the twenty-seventh greatest quarterback of the post-merger era by Football Nation.[39]

The Professional Football Researchers Association named Stabler to the PFRA Hall of Very Good Class of 2014[40]

At the 2016 NFL Honors, it was announced that Stabler had been selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he was officially inducted on August 6, 2016.

NFL career statistics

Won the Super Bowl
Led the league
Bold Career high
NFL career statistics
Year Team Games Passing Rushing
GP GS Record Cmp Att Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Att Yds Avg TD
1970 OAK 3 0 3 7 42.8 52 0 1 18.5 1 −4 −4.0 0
1971 OAK 14 1 1–0 24 48 50.0 268 1 4 39.2 4 29 7.3 2
1972 OAK 14 1 0–1 44 74 59.5 524 4 3 82.3 6 27 4.5 0
1973 OAK 14 11 8–2–1 163 260 62.7 1,997 14 10 88.3 21 101 4.8 0
1974 OAK 14 13 11–2 178 310 57.4 2,469 26 12 94.9 12 −2 −0.2 1
1975 OAK 14 13 10–3 171 293 58.4 2,296 16 24 67.3 6 −5 −0.8 0
1976 OAK 12 12 11–1 194 291 66.7 2,737 27 17 103.4 7 −2 −0.3 1
1977 OAK 13 13 10–3 169 294 57.5 2,176 20 20 75.2 3 −3 −1.0 0
1978 OAK 16 16 9–7 237 406 58.4 2,944 16 30 63.4 4 0 0.0 0
1979 OAK 16 16 9–7 304 498 61.1 3,615 26 22 82.2 16 −4 −0.3 0
1980 HOU 16 16 11–5 293 457 64.1 3,202 13 28 68.7 15 −22 −1.5 0
1981 HOU 13 12 5–7 165 285 57.9 1,988 14 18 69.5 10 −3 −0.3 0
1982 NO 8 8 4–4 117 189 61.9 1,343 6 10 71.8 3 −4 −1.3 0
1983 NO 14 14 7–7 176 311 56.6 1,988 9 18 61.4 9 −14 −1.6 0
1984 NO 3 0 33 70 47.1 339 2 5 41.3 1 −1 −1.0 0
Career 184 146 96–49–1 2,270 3,793 59.8 27,938 194 222 75.3 118 93 0.8 4

After football

Broadcasting career

Following his retirement as a player, Stabler worked as a color commentator, first on CBS NFL telecasts, and then on radio with Eli Gold for Alabama football games. Stabler left before Alabama's 2008 season and was replaced by Phil Savage.[42]

Charitable work

Stabler served as chairman of the XOXO Stabler Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a mission "to raise funds, build awareness and hope for a variety of charitable causes." Stabler's celebrity golf tournaments in Point Clear, Alabama have raised nearly $600,000 for charitable partner The Ronald McDonald House of Mobile, which serves families of seriously ill and injured children receiving medical treatment at local hospitals.[43]

In media

Personal life

Stabler was married three times: to Isabel Clarke from 1968 to 1973, to Debbie Fitzsimmons from 1975 to 1978, and to Rose Molly Burch from 1984 to 2009.

Stabler had three daughters, Kendra Stabler Moyes, Alexa Stabler-Adams and Marissa Leigh Stabler.[47] In 2017, Alexa Stabler-Adams was certified by the NFLPA as a sports agent.[48]

Renowned for being cool and cerebral on the field, Stabler was equally legendary for his off-field exploits;[citation needed] he wrote in his 1986 autobiography Snake, "The monotony of [training] camp was so oppressive that without the diversions of whiskey and women, those of us who were wired for activity and no more than six hours sleep a night might have gone berserk."[49] Stabler told stories of drunk Raiders teammates pointing guns at him, and bailing out a teammate from jail who was wearing nothing but blue cowboy boots and his Super Bowl ring. "We were the only pro team who traveled with its own bail bondsman," he said.[50]


Stabler died of colon cancer on July 8, 2015, at the age of 69. He had been diagnosed with the disease in February 2015. After some initial confusion when The Tuscaloosa News leaked a draft obituary for Stabler before word of his death could be confirmed, his family confirmed his death in a statement issued on July 9.[51][52]

In February 2016, The New York Times reported that researchers at Boston University discovered high Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in Stabler's brain after his death.[53] He is one of at least 345 NFL players to be diagnosed after death with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is caused by repeated hits to the head.[54][55] He was buried at Pine Rest Cemetery in Foley, Alabama.

See also


  1. ^ Hoffman, Benjamin (February 6, 2016). "After Revelation He Had C.T.E., Ken Stabler Is a Poignant Hall of Fame Addition". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Ken Stabler". Oakland Raiders. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2008.
  3. ^ "University of Alabama official team statistics, 1965" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 12, 2012. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  4. ^ "Bear Bryant 'simply the best there ever was'". ESPN. Retrieved September 3, 2008.
  5. ^ McNair, Kirk (July 9, 2015). "Stabler Remembered for Run In Mud". Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  6. ^ "Tantalizing names available in second day of grid draft". Lawrence Daily Journal-World. (Kansas). Associated Press. January 31, 1968. p. 21.
  7. ^ "Ken Stabler". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  8. ^ "Ken Stabler Signs Raider Contract". The Pensacola News. Associated Press. March 21, 1968. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  9. ^ "Shockers play Ramblers today". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). November 9, 1968. p. 12.
  10. ^ "Shocks try again to quit basement". Spokane Daily News. (Washington). November 11, 1968. p. 15.
  11. ^ "Stabler Joins Spokane Club". Idaho State Journal. Associated Press. November 10, 1968. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  12. ^ "Spokane Shockers (1969)". Archived from the original on December 4, 2017. Retrieved December 4, 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  13. ^ Tinley, Scott (October 13, 2010). "The legend of Kenny Stabler". Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  14. ^ Hayes, Ed (November 30, 1968). "It's Buddy-Buddy In T-Bowl Title Tilt at 8". Orlando Evening Star. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  15. ^ "Stabler Quits Because of Attitude". The Anniston Star. Associated Press. July 30, 1969. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  16. ^ Smith, George (November 19, 1969). "Remember Snake? He's On His Way Back". The Anniston Star. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  17. ^ Land, Charles (November 19, 1969). "Stabler eyeing return to pro football". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). p. 9.
  18. ^ "Stabler Plans Grid Return". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Associated Press. January 17, 1970. p. 22. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  19. ^ Mizell, Hubert (December 24, 1972). "'Miracle' gives Steelers 13-7 victory". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). Associated Press. p. 33.
  20. ^ "Super Bowl like Grant's Tomb". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). Associated Press. January 10, 1977. p. 10.
  21. ^ Jenkins, Dan (January 17, 1977). "The Raiders were all Suped up". Sports Illustrated. p. 10.
  22. ^ "Suddenly, the Raiders win 37-31 decision". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire services. December 25, 1977. p. 3C.
  23. ^ DuPree, David (December 25, 1977). "Raiders pull it out, 37-31". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). (Washington Post). p. 1B.
  24. ^ Reid, Ron (January 2, 1978). "The Ghost to the Post". Sports Illustrated. p. 12.
  25. ^ "Raiders win on Stabler's 'fumble'". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). Associated Press. September 11, 1978. p. 11.
  26. ^ "Raiders edge Chargers on fluke fumble". Lodi News-Sentinel. (California). UPI. September 11, 1978. p. 12.
  27. ^ "Raiders go all the way, thrash Vikings". Lodi News-Sentinel. (California). UPI. January 10, 1977. p. 14.
  28. ^ "Raiders confirm trade of Stabler". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). Associated Press. March 16, 1980. p. 4B.
  29. ^ "Snake who? Oiler players rally round Nielson". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). Associated Press. July 24, 1981. p. 10.
  30. ^ "'The Snake' is quitting pro football". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. July 24, 1981. p. 29.
  31. ^ "Stabler not offering apologies". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). Associated Press. August 27, 1981. p. 19.
  32. ^ "White gets new contract, Oilers get old quarterback". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. August 27, 1981. p. D2.
  33. ^ "Stabler will play for Saints". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). Associated Press. August 25, 1982. p. 25.
  34. ^ "Football: Dave Wilson". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). Associated Press. August 14, 1982. p. 10.
  35. ^ "Saints deal Manning to Oilers". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). Associated Press. September 18, 1982. p. 19.
  36. ^ "Ken Stabler calls it quits". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). Associated Press. October 27, 1984. p. 13.
  37. ^ "The passing of 'the Snake'". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. October 27, 1984. p. 3B.
  38. ^ "Pats put away Chargers for fourth Super Bowl berth in seven years". ESPN. January 20, 2008. Retrieved September 2, 2008.
  39. ^ "Top 100 Modern Quarterbacks 40–21". Football Nation. July 26, 2012. Archived from the original on October 30, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
  40. ^ "Professional Researchers Association Hall of Very Good Class of 2014". Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  41. ^ Farley, Glen (January 15, 2017). "Patriots Notebook: Pats pack a six-pack". The Enterprise (Brockton). Archived from the original on September 24, 2021. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  42. ^ Williamson, Bill (July 11, 2008). "Ex-Raiders star Stabler leaves radio gig". ESPN. Archived from the original on October 9, 2008. Retrieved September 3, 2008.
  43. ^ Inabinett, Mark (March 4, 2013). "Ken Stabler 'just trying to pay the rent' with golf tournament". Retrieved March 31, 2013.
  44. ^ "Lung Brush". Retrieved September 3, 2008.
  45. ^ "LegendsL Jake 'The Snake' Roberts!". Pro Wrestling Daily. March 10, 2008. Archived from the original on June 8, 2008. Retrieved September 3, 2008.
  46. ^ "NFL Street Legend: Kenny Stabler". IGN Sports. November 18, 2003. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  47. ^ Dickey, Glenn (June 5, 2005). "Catching up with Kenny Stabler: Avoiding Snake eyes". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 3, 2008.
  48. ^ "Alexa's NFLPA Agency certification". Archived from the original on July 5, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  49. ^ Stabler, Ken (September 1986). Snake. Doubleday. p. 2. ISBN 0385234503.
  50. ^ St. John, Warren (2004). "Chapter Eight: Fighting Gators, Crash Landings, and Fireman Mike". Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Journey Into the Heart of Fan Mania. Crown Publishers. p. 137. ISBN 1-4000-8297-8.
  51. ^ "UPDATE: Oakland Raiders QB Ken Stabler, 69, Dies From Stage 4 Colon Cancer".
  52. ^ Sinclair Broadcast Group. "CONFIRMED: Kenny Stabler Passes Away". WPMI. Archived from the original on July 10, 2015.
  53. ^ Branch, John (February 3, 2016). "Ken Stabler, a Magnetic N.F.L. Star, Was Sapped of Spirit by C.T.E." The New York Times.
  54. ^ "The driving force behind Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)". Concussion Legacy Foundation. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  55. ^ Ken Belson and Benjamin Mueller (June 20, 2023). "Collective Force of Head Hits, Not Just the Number of Them, Increases Odds of C.T.E. The largest study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy to date found that the cumulative force of head hits absorbed by players in their careers is the best predictor of future brain disease". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2023.

Further reading