The passing of former Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler at the age of 69 is likely to revive old debates over The Snake’s Pro Football Hall of Fame worthiness.
There’s room for argument on both sides of the table. I mean, the Hall’s selection committee named Stabler a second-team member of its All-Decade Team of the 1970s, despite 24 interceptions thrown in 1975 and 30 in 1978. They were clearly impressed once upon a time.
Stabler finished his 15-year NFL career (11 as a starter with three teams) in the shadows of contemporaries such as Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese and Fran Tarkenton, each immortalized in Canton, Ohio.
But what about Kenny? He led Oakland to a 69-26-1 regular season record in the 1970s and finished with 96 wins in all after wrapping up a career with the Houston Oilers and lowly New Orleans Saints.
Stabler’s crowning achievement was winning a Super Bowl following the 1976 season. But the very next year he added his name to an unflattering group by becoming the fourth player in league history to throw seven interceptions in a game.
It happened during a wild 30-7 home loss to the Denver Broncos as linebacker Joe Rizzo accounted for three picks, although it appears 10 of his 20 incompletions that day hit receivers in the hands and led to multiple INTs likely out of his control.
Stabler joined Glenn Dobbs of the 1948 Los Angeles Dons, Zeke Bratkowski of the 1960 Chicago Bears and Tommy Wade of the 1965 Pittsburgh Steelers on that list of infamy. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Steve DeBerg threw seven interceptions in a game in 1986 and Ty Detmer did the same for the Detroit Lions in 2001.
It’s worth noting that there’s not a Hall of Fame name to be found amongst that group, and that Stabler also threw five interceptions in a game on four different occasions.
It’s likely that a limited time spent atop his profession (six years in the playoffs as a regular season starter) and the 222 career interceptions compared to his 194 touchdown passes are sure to keep the University of Alabama product out of the Hall, no matter what the senior committee decides to do moving forward.
When assessing Stabler’s career it should be pointed out that Oakland shipped him to Houston before the start of the 1980 season, in favor of 33-year old Jim Plunkett who’d never had a winning record in seven seasons as a starter, then wasted little time in going on to win their second Super Bowl later that season. Plunkett and the Raiders would then do it all over again in 1983, adding more salt to the wound in the final season Stabler spent as a starter in the NFL before walking away a year later.
Hall of Fame or no Hall of Fame, The Snake provided plenty of thrilling moments to ensure his memory and contributions are never overlooked amongst the National Football League.