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Ken Stabler

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File:Ken Stabler 2007 Alabama Broadcasters Convention.jpg
Ken Stabler at the Alabama Broadcasters Association 2007 Convention.
No. 12, 16
Position: Quarterback
Personal information
Date of birth: (1945-12-25) December 25, 1945 (age 74)
Place of birth: Foley, Alabama
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Career information
High school: Foley (AL)
College: Alabama
NFL draft: 1968 / Round: 2 / Pick: 52
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career Template:If empty statistics
TDINT: 194–222
Yards: 27,938
QB Rating: 75.3
Stats at

Kenneth Michael "Ken" Stabler (born December 25, 1945), nicknamed "The Snake," is a former American football quarterback in the National Football League for the Oakland Raiders (1970–79), Houston Oilers (1980–81), and New Orleans Saints (1982–84). He played college football for the University of Alabama.


High school career

Stabler became a highly touted football player at Foley High School. He led Foley to a win-loss record of 29–1 over his high school 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. During his high school career, he earned his nickname "the Snake"[1] from his coach following a long, winding touchdown run.

College career

Stabler was recruited by legendary head coach Bear Bryant at Alabama, joining the team in 1964. Due to National Collegiate Athletic Association regulations at the time, freshmen were ineligible to play; therefore, Stabler would sit out during the 1964 season. In that season, the Crimson Tide won the National Championship with quarterback Joe Namath.

In the 1965 season, Stabler was used sparingly as a back-up to Steve Sloan at quarterback,[2] following Namath's departure to the AFL. That year again, 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 quarterback position full-time. 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, the Tide was snubbed by the polls, finishing in third behind Notre Dame and Michigan State.

Expectations were high in Stabler's senior season, though those expectations would not be completely fulfilled. The offense often struggled, 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.[3] 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 53–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.

Stabler finished his career at Alabama with a 28–3–2 record as a starter.

Career statistics

NCAA Collegiate Career Stats
Alabama Crimson Tide
Season Passing Rushing
Comp Att Yards Pct. TD Int QB Rating Att Yards 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
NCAA Career Totals 180 303 2,196 59.4 18 18 152.6 265 838 3.2 9
NFL Career Statistics
Oakland Raiders
Season Passing
G Comp Att Yards YDS/G Pct. TD Long Int QB Rating
1970 3 3 7 52 17.3 28.6 0 33 1 18.5
1971 14 24 48 268 19.1 50.0 1 23 4 39.2
1972 14 44 74 524 37.4 59.5 4 22 3 82.3
1973 14 163 260 1,997 142.6 62.7 14 80 10 82.3
1974 14 178 310 2,469 176.4 57.4 26 67 12 88.3
1975 14 171 293 2,296 164.0 58.4 16 53 24 67.3
1976 12 194 291 2,737 228.1 66.7 27 88t 17 103.4
1977 12 169 294 2,176 167.4 57.5 20 44t 20 75.2
1978 16 237 406 2,944 184.0 58.4 16 49 30 63.4
1979 16 304 498 3,615 225.9 61.1 26 66t 22 82.2
Houston Oilers
1980 16 293 457 3,202 200.1 64.1 13 79t 28 68.7
1981 13 165 285 1,988 152.9 57.9 14 71t 18 69.5
New Orleans Saints
1982 8 117 189 1,343 167.9 61.9 6 48 10 71.8
1983 8 176 311 1,988 142.0 56.6 9 48 18 61.4
1984 3 33 70 339 113.0 47.1 2 29 5 41.3
NFL Career Totals 184 2,270 3,793 27,938 151.8 59.8 194 88 222 75.3

NFL career

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.

For his successes in the NFL, Stabler was named the twenty-seventh greatest quarterback of the post-merger era by Football Nation.[7]

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 Tom Roberts.[8]

Charitable work

Stabler serves 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.[9]

Popular culture

  • Stabler was featured on a SNL skit as the spokesman for a fictional product called the "Lung Brush".[10]
  • Professional wrestler Jake "The Snake" Roberts adapted his nickname "The Snake" as a tribute to Stabler.[11]
  • While playing for the Oilers, Stabler had his own soft drink, known as Snake Venom, sold in the city. In his autobiography, Stabler stated that the drink "tasted about like its name."
  • He made a cameo appearance on Married...With Children ("The Bud Bowl Episode").
  • In September 2006, Stabler partnered with children's book publisher Mascot Books to release his first kid's book, Roll Tide!.
  • Stabler was the grand marshal for the 2009 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway.
  • Stabler also appears in the book Gump and Co. A sequel to the book and movie Forrest Gump as the New Orleans Saints quarterback.
  • Stabler is featured on the "NFL Legends" team in the video game NFL Street.[12]


Stabler has been married three times. He married Isabel Clarke in 1968 and divorced in 1971.[13] He was married to Debbie Fitzsimmons from 1974 to 1978.[14] In 1984 he married former Miss Alabama Universe (1979) Rose Molly Burch. The couple filed for divorce in 2002.[15]

Stabler has three daughters, Kendra, Alexa, and Marissa.[16] He has a cousin who has been mistaken for him or a twin brother in Camilla, Georgia by the name of Lazzar (Lance) Stabler, whose father had ties to Hank Williams Sr.

See also

Further reading

  • Sahadi, Lou (1997). Ken Stabler and the Oakland Raiders. Scholastic Book Services. 
  • Stabler, Ken; Berry Stainback (1986). Snake: The Candid Autobiography of Football's Most Outrageous Renegade. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-23450-3. 


  1. ^ "Ken Stabler". Oakland Raiders. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  2. ^ "University of Alabama official team statistics, 1965" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  3. ^ "Bear Bryant 'simply the best there ever was'". ESPN. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  4. ^ Continental Football League (1965 - 1969)
  5. ^ "Pats put away Chargers for fourth Super Bowl berth in seven years". ESPN. 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  6. ^ "Top Ten Not in HOF: Ken Stabler". National Football League. 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  7. ^ "Top 100 Modern Quarterbacks 40-21". Football Nation. 2012-07-26. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  8. ^ Williamson, Bill (2008-07-11). "Ex-Raiders star Stabler leaves radio gig". ESPN. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  9. ^ Inabinett, Mark (2013-03-04). "Ken Stabler 'just trying to pay the rent' with golf tournament". Retrieved 2013-03-31. 
  10. ^ "Lung Brush". Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  11. ^ "LegendsL Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts!". Pro Wrestling Daily. 2008-03-10. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  12. ^ "NFL Street Legend: Kenny Stabler". IGN Sports. 2003-11-18. Retrieved 2012-07-14. 
  13. ^ "Ken Stabler sued". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Dec 5, 1980. 
  14. ^ "The Super Bowl Was 'a Meat Market'—No, Not the Game, the Women After Ken Stabler". People Magazine. November 14, 1977. 
  15. ^ "Stabler to marry; hints at retirement". Times Daily. June 10, 1984. 
  16. ^ Dickey, Glenn (2005-06-05). "Catching up with Kenny Stabler: Avoiding Snake eyes". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 

External links