Kenny Stabler, the great Oakland Raiders quarterback known for his exciting style of play on the field and his colorful personality off the field, has died at the age of 69.
“We announce with great sadness that our father, Ken Stabler, passed away Wednesday, July 8 as a result of complications associated with colon cancer,” Stabler’s family said in a statement.
Known as The Snake, Stabler was voted NFL MVP in 1974 and led the Raiders to a victory in Super Bowl XI. But even more than those achievements, Stabler is remembered for some of the great moments that made him a truly unique figure in professional football history: The Holy Roller, in which Stabler fumbled the ball forward toward teammate Dave Casper, who recovered it in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown, was a chaotic play that caused the NFL to change its rules about forward fumbles. And the Sea of Hands was the most famous of Stabler’s touchdown passes, a lob into the end zone that Oakland’s Clarence Davis somehow caught in the end zone while surrounded by three Dolphins defenders, winning a playoff game for the Raiders.
After beginning his college career as a backup to Joe Namath, Stabler became the starter for Bear Bryant’s Alabama team in 1966 and led the Crimson Tide to an 11-0 season. He was drafted by the Raiders in 1968 but began his career as a backup to Daryle Lamonica and George Blanda and didn’t become the Raiders’ starter until 1973. That year he made the first of his four Pro Bowls.
Stabler’s bad knees limited him for much of his NFL career, and as he started to wear down with age, he was traded to the Houston Oilers in 1980. After two seasons in Houston, he finished his career in New Orleans, where he played from 1982 to 1984.
Although Stabler has not been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, you can’t tell the story of pro football without including Kenny Stabler.