Ken ‘the Snake’ Stabler slithers into NFL Hall of Fame

One of the newest bronze statues headed for Canton could feature scales and a slithering tongue — with a Super Bowl ring as a rattle.

Quarterback Ken “the Snake” Stabler, who died last July at age 69, will be formally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, the 25th Raider to earn his place in Canton.

In a team-issued statement, former Raiders head coach Tom Flores asked a question that summed up Stabler’s life, on and off the field:

“Can you imagine the party he would have thrown if he was still around with us?”

Stabler becomes the second quarterback, the other being Broadway Joe Namath, to be inducted after throwing more interceptions than touchdowns — 222 picks to 194 touchdowns — though Stabler also added four rushing scores.

Former Raiders receiver Cliff Branch said:

“I think it is long overdue. He was a finalist in the early 2000s twice and should have gone in then, but it is never too late. It is nice to know that he now completes the ’70s quarterbacks who won a Super Bowl to make the Hall of Fame.”

Hall of Fame defensive back Willie Brown said:

“Everybody knows that ‘Snake’ should have been in 15 years ago, but it does not matter how long it takes once you get in the Hall of Fame. He was one of the biggest leaders on the football team, always looking out for everyone, and always ready to play.”

Stabler was considered a fringe candidate by some, which led him to become inducted by the seniors committee. The circumstances may lead to the notion he may have never been inducted under any other circumstance.

His mark on the NFL is undeniable, leading some of the most notable drives in league history. The Holy Roller, the Sea of Hands, the Ghost to the Post, and the Comeback Classic.

All these plays were classic Stabler — unique to his game, leadership and influence.

Via the Raiders, Branch said:

“His play calling, he was a chess player. He used to call his own plays because back in those days we didn’t have an offensive coordinator, so I think that is what made him so successful. When Kenny got drafted by the Oakland Raiders, he was also drafted in Major League Baseball as a pitcher. He could locate his throws so well that it didn’t matter if you were covered, just like a pitcher painting the corners on the plate.”

What’s also remarkable about Stabler and his career is that he would often do this after nights of partying with the hardest of celebrants. That’s if you believe the many who claim to have witnessed such events. One of the hundreds, possibly thousands.

Stabler was also a tough-guy’s tough guy. He didn’t want to be seen going into the trainers room, so much so, that former head coach John Madden told a story just after his passing to put it into perspective:

“We used to have a thing. Kenny Stabler never went into the training room. And he didn’t want any of his teammates to ever see him getting treatment. He never went in the training room. He wouldn’t be seen in there, he wouldn’t step in there. So, I thought, well this is ridiculous because he would take a little beating during these games too, and he needed treatment.”

Madden continued:

“So I would talk to him about it and he just didn’t want to go in the training room. So I said, well you know, let’s do it at night, so you know when everyone leaves. And you know George Anderson our trainer would come back at like nine o’clock at night and that’s when he got his treatment. But, he didn’t want any of his teammates to ever see him in the training room getting treatment.”

Stabler was a mix of Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, Steven Tyler, and now, Al Davis and Broadway Joe.

Stabler played 10 seasons with the Raiders, and another five with the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints. He was the 1974 MVP, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, and led the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory during the 1976 season.

Now, the departed Stabler can add Hall of Fame inductee to the list of accomplishments.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.