Tony Machir, Sporting News:
Ken "The Snake" Stabler, who starred at Alabama before becoming a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Raiders, has died after a brief battle with colon cancer. He was 69.

Stabler was recruited to Alabama by legendary coach Bear Bryant, but because of NCAA rules at the time, he was barred from playing as a freshman and sat out the 1964 season. He watched Joe Namath lead the team to a national championship.

Two years later, Stabler led the Crimson Tide to an 11-0 season, which culminated in a 34-7 victory over Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl.

A second round draft pick by the Oakland Raiders in 1968, Ken Stabler had to wait his turn patiently for a starting role. In the famous 1972 AFC playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders, Stabler replaced the ineffective Daryl Lamonica at QB. With one minute 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, QB Ken Stabler scrambled 30 yards for a TD giving Oakland the lead, 7-6.

On fourth-and-10 on their own 40-yard line with 22 seconds remaining in the game and no time-outs, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw, under great pressure from Raiders linemen Tony Cline and Horace Jones, threw the ball to the Raiders' 35-yard line, toward halfback John "Frenchy" Fuqua. Raiders safety Jack Tatum collided with Fuqua just as the ball arrived. Tatum's hit knocked Fuqua to the ground and sent the ball sailing backward several yards, end over end. Steelers fullback Franco Harris, after initially blocking on the play, had run downfield in case Bradshaw needed another eligible receiver. He scooped up the sailing ball just before it hit the ground. Harris ran past Raiders linebacker Gerald Irons, while linebacker Phil Villapiano, who had been covering Harris, was blocked by Steelers tight end John McMakin. Harris used a stiff arm to ward off Raiders defensive back Jimmy Warren. The Immaculate Reception touchdown gave the Steelers a 13–7 lead, allowing them to win the game.

The football gods made amends in 1976 when Oakland Raiders QB Ken Stabler was on the winning end of the AFC title game with the New England Patriots. Referee Ben Dreith called a roughing-the-passer penalty on Patriots DT Ray "Sugar Bear" Hamilton, nullifying a third down incompletion from the Patriots' 18 yard line. Replays showed Stabler ducking away from Hamilton and no contact being made.

The atrocious call gave Oakland 15 yards to the New England three yard line. At the time, there was no rule for half the distance to the goal line. A subsequent penalty on Patriots S Prentice McCray for kicking the ball after it was put in play moved the ball to the one yard line. Stabler took advantage and scored Oakland's game-winning touchdown.

Ken Stabler accepted the gift call from Referee Ben Dreith. Just two weeks after the narrow escape over the New England Patriots, Oakland defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI, 32-14. The Raiders finished the season, 16-1 with only a regular season loss to New England in Foxboro, MA marring a perfect season.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that John Madden and Ken Stabler have the fourth-best win percentage by a head coach-quarterback combo in NFL history (minimum 75 games) (.756), trailing only Bill Belichick and Tom Brady (.773), Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr (.770) and Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning (.759).

Stabler is the only quarterback who started and won a Super Bowl in the 1970s who isn’t a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He threw 150 touchown passes that decade, third-most of any quarterback. The other four quarterbacks in the top five are all in the Hall of Fame.

All is forgiven. I agree that Ken Stabler should be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire. .

Follow me on Twitter at @_prmurphy

For more of my articles, click here.

Paul Murphy 7/10/2015 02:03:00 PM Edit

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