Oilers went all in with trade for Ken Stabler

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Not many teams have swapped starting quarterback for starting quarterback. It happened earlier this year, with the Rams giving up on Sam Bradford and the Eagles giving up on Nick Foles and both teams hoping that the guy the other team got rid of will be an upgrade over the guy each team got rid of.

In 1980, the Oilers had other plans. After losing to the Steelers two straight times in the AFC title game, Houston went all in in an effort to win it all, swapping 30-year-old quarterback Dan Pastorini to the Raiders for 34-year-old quarterback Ken Stabler.

Houston became a haven for former Raiders in 1980, with separate trades bringing safety Jack Tatum to the Oilers before the season and tight end Dave Casper during the season. With a roster that included Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell plenty of holdovers from the two-time conference finalists, the arrow was pointing straight up for Stabler and the Oilers.

Things got off to a rough start, with a 31-17 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh. But the Oilers managed to win 11 of the next 15 games, qualifying for the postseason and, fittingly, a trip to Oakland for a wild-card game.

Although Stabler and the Oilers led the Raiders 7-3 after the first quarter, the Raiders rolled from there, icing the 27-7 cake with a Stabler interception returned for a touchdown by cornerback Lester Hayes.

And it was the Raiders who’d parlay the Pastorini-Stabler trade into a Super Bowl win, but not because of Pastorini. He broke a leg in the fifth game of the season, opening the door for backup Jim Plunkett to lead the Raiders to the top of the mountain.

So while Stabler did much more than Pastorini in 1980, it was the Raiders who accomplished what the Oilers thought the deal would help them do.

17 responses to “Oilers went all in with trade for Ken Stabler

  1. 1980 was the first year I really started paying attention to football. I can’t tell you who won the Super Bowl two years ago, but I remember every detail of that 1980 season.

  2. It is SAD that one of these QB’s is in the HoF and the other is a gunslinger!
    TDS 173
    INT 220
    YDS 27,663
    RTG 65.5

    TD 194
    INT 222
    YDS 27,938
    RTG 75.3

    Namath is the first group of STATS – STABLER was BETTER!

    MR KING – PUT HIM IN THE HALL (king is a phony anyway! here is proof!)

  3. Remember that trade, and the other two well. I was shocked and saddened when they happened, having been a Raiders fan since the 60’s. Then, when Pastorini broke his leg, I was ready to throw in the towel; but Plunkett came through big time.

    Years later, in ’91, I got to meet Pastorini through my sister who worked with him on his drag racing team. Man, was he bitter over getting benched in favor of Plunkett. Good guy, but he hated the Raiders for that move.

  4. Namath is only in the Hall because the NY media loved him, and delivered on a guarantee. The media will make or break a player if you play by their rules and give them lots of nice quotes. Otherwise, they are a vindictive bunch.

  5. I was very angry with Al Davis at the time the Stabler-Pastorini trade was made. Snake had lost a lot of his deep throwing ability but he was still better than Pastorini. Fortunately, Plunkett ultimately became the starter and was the perfect QB for the Raiders in the early ’80s so things worked out well for the Silver & Black.

    With regard to the players swapped between the Raiders and Oilers in 1980, I think the best acquisition for either team in those trades was Kenny King by Oakland who was a good RB. He was a great compliment to Van Eeghen and he made many clutch plays including an 80 yard TD reception in Super Bowl XV.

  6. Ahh the Luv Ya Blue Oilers. Possibly the greatest team song ever. “We’re the Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers #1”.

    A synopsis of the Bum Phillips offense.

    1st down – Earl Campbell left.
    2nd down – Earl Campbell right.
    3rd down – Earl Campbell up the middle.

  7. I was 9 years old when the Saints grabbed Stabler to be out new starting QB after Archie Manning… I thought to myself, Who is this guy with grey hair and a pony tail? He was larger than life.

  8. Although Stabler and the Oilers led the Raiders 7-3 after the first quarter, the Raiders rolled from there, icing the 27-7 cake with a Stabler interception returned for a touchdown by cornerback Lester Hayes.
    Those who messed with The Judge got burned.

    Thanks for the memories, Mike.

  9. Although I nearly cried when the Raiders traded Stabler, it was in a twisted way the best trade in team history. No trade = no Pastorini = no broken leg = no Plunkett = no Superbowls (2). Twisted I know but true.

  10. “A synopsis of the Bum Phillips offense.

    1st down – Earl Campbell left.
    2nd down – Earl Campbell right.
    3rd down – Earl Campbell up the middle.”

    Because Campbell was saddled with garbage QB play from Pastorini and a pitifully washed up Stabler. Such a shame that Earl’s prime was wasted that way.

  11. Don’t forget to thank the Chargers for breaking that leg. The Snake got his ring and the Raider Mystic that many never had. RIP Snake.

  12. I lived in the Houston area during that time. Pastorini got his jock strap bunched up from time to time and would use the ”trade me” card. Oilers finally did it…couldn’t believe they got Stabler in return. And then slowly a few more Raiders. Gotta say it was very strange seeing those Raider guys in Columbia Blue than Silver and Black. But it was fun. As for Dante, breaking his leg on what wound up being a Super Bowl winning season was karma. He should’ve been ticked at that, rather than at the Raiders.

  13. sorry I didn’t get to see him play…from everything I’ve read he was a super fun person with a big southern personality…RIP

  14. Al Davis, at the beginning of the 1980 season, even admitted that he was rebuilding, especially after starting 2-3 and having Pastorini out for the season. So his #1 goal was to prevent his hated nemesis, the Steelers, from getting the one for the thumb. At the time, the Steelers started 4-1 and were still the favorites to 3-peat. So he helped the Oilers out since they were the Steelers’ biggest threat. A few weeks later, the Raiders came back from 2 double digit deficits to beat the Steelers on a Monday night. Jim Plunkett was terrific that night. And the rest is history as they say. I agree with the poster above. I remember 1980 more than last year. Btw, Pastorini broke his leg against the Chiefs, not the Chargers. Football was so much better back then.

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