Hallelujah! Stabler, Stanfel get another shot at Hall of Fame


Ken Stabler photo courtesy of the Oakland Raiders

Stanfel_Richard_2

(Stanfel photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)
(Stabler photo courtesy of the Oakland Raiders)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

Well, it’s about time. OK, it’s past time.

Three decades after his retirement and six weeks after his death, former quarterback Ken Stabler is on the fast track to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Stabler and former offensive guard Dick Stanfel on Wednesday were nominated as candidates for the Class of 2016 by the Hall’s seniors committee.

That doesn’t mean they’re in. What it does mean is that if they gain 80 percent of the vote of the Hall’s 46 selectors in February, they’re where they belong.

In the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For both, it’s long overdue. Stabler was a three-time finalist who didn’t make it. Stanfel is the first three-time candidate proposed by the seniors committee. There have been six senior candidates brought back a second time, with four of them making it. Stanfel was last voted down in 2012.

Bu there’s something else Stabler and Stanfel have in common: Both were all-decade members, and both passed away this summer – with Stanfel dying in June and Stabler in early July.

Stabler’s death produced an outpouring of emotion, with several former players and coaches pushing his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and wondering why it hadn’t happened earlier. As the Talk of Fame Network predicted at the time, there was going to be increased pressure on the Hall’s seniors committee to take action on the former Oakland great … and on Wednesday it responded.

That’s not to say that Stabler’s nomination was a sympathy vote. It wasn’t. But his death provoked voters to re-think why he isn’t in Canton … and, frankly, it’s hard to produce an answer. One of the most successful quarterbacks of the 1970s he was at his best when big games were on the line – with Stabler front and center with late-game heroics in the 1974 playoff defeat of Miami (“Sea of Hands”) and the 1977 playoff defeat of Baltimore (“Ghost to the Post”) in double overtime.

“When we were behind in the fourth quarter with our backs to the end zone,” said Hall-of-Fame guard Gene Upshaw, “no matter how he had played up to that point, we could look in his eyes, and you knew … you knew … he was going to win it for us. That was an amazing feeling.”

So he had 28 more career interceptions than touchdowns. Big deal. It was a different era, with vertical passing games, physical play on the outside between receivers and defensive backs and quarterbacks measured more by success than passer ratings. And when it came to success, few surpassed Stabler, who won nearly 72 percent of his starts with the Raiders.

But that’s not all. He produced his first 100 victories faster than anyone up to that point – breaking Johnny Unitas’ record of 153 games. Stabler did it in 150, and, since then, only three others bettered him – Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Tom Brady.

“If you just look at how he played,” Hall-of-Fame coach John Madden said of Stabler, “he’s a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. We get caught up today in statistics and comparing statistics, and you can’t do that with different eras.”

Stabler and Stanfel bring the total of candidates proposed by the seniors committee to 56 since its formation, with 35 of them offensive players, 15 defenders, four coaches, one special teamer and one owner.

Stanfel’s choice is something of a surprise because he was passed over by the board’s selectors only three years ago. But the seniors committee has a conviction about him, and it should. Stanfel was such a dominant offensive lineman that he was chosen to the All-Pro team in five of his seven pro seasons and won two NFL championships.

Moreover, despite playing only three seasons with the Washington Redskins, he was named in 2002 as one of the franchise’s 70 greatest players. Impressive? There’s more. In 1953, when the Detroit Lions won the NFL championship, he was named the team’s MVP. Now think about that: A guard was named as the team’s top player.

“That will probably never happen again for an offensive lineman,” Stanfel later said of his award. “That was a different time.”

Hopefully, this is, too. Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel have been passed over by the Hall’s selectors before. In fact, they’ve been passed over multiple times. Here’s hoping that trend ends in February.

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30 Comments

  1. August 19, 2015
    Reply

    I would be first in line to vote for the Snake to get into the Hall of Fame. However, before Ken Stabler being inducted,, you cannot place him ahead of his coach, Tom Flores, who won two Super bowls for the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders. Tom also has two more super bowl rings, one as a backup quarterback to Len Dawson of the Kansas City Chiefs, who won the only Chiefs’ super bowl in 1970. His 83 wins with the Raiders as a coach are the second-most in franchise history, behind only Madden. Flores left Pro Football with a lifetime coaching record of 97–87 (52.7%), as well as an 8-3 playoff record, and with two Super Bowl victories. Flores, Jimmy Johnson, and George Seifert are the only eligible coaches with two such victories, who have not been selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Flores was also the first NFL coach to win the super bowl as a wild card. The fourth ring was for being the assistant coach to John Madden’s only super bowl victory in 1977. One doesn’t have to mention that Tom Flores was the first Mexican American quarterback when he started his career as the quarterback for the Oakland Raiders in 1960. While Tom Flores did not an elite quarterback career (albeit he holds many record for the American Football League) he did hold the record for over 50 years for throwing the most consecutive touchdowns (11) in back to back games, a record that was not broken until 2014 by Ben Roethlisberger. He played for the American Football League for all of the ten years of the league’s existence, and is rank fifth all time passing leader in the conference. Tom has been inducted in the AFL Hall of Fame as well as the California College Football Hall of Fame. Tom Flores is the first Mexican American to be named General Manager of an NFL franchise for the Seattle Seahawks. Flores is currently the color commentator alongside play-by-play announcer Greg Papa on the Raiders radio network. Flores served as coach of the American team in the 2011 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

    I hope Kenny Stabler eventually gets inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. But I know that he would feel a little embarrassed if he was inducted before his coach, Tom Flores.

  2. Robert Ewing
    August 19, 2015
    Reply

    I Believe this is the year for the snake the problem with flores joe is that what he did with seattle afterwards

    • August 20, 2015
      Reply

      Robert, Tom was the General Manager when Seattle was down and they sent him back to coach an awful team. Any coach would have had a losing record with that bunch.

  3. Nigel PAycheck
    August 19, 2015
    Reply

    Why did we have to wait until he passed away?
    Kenny, would have been the Classiest Hall of Fame inductee EVER!!
    God Bless you Ken Stabler, you made me love football, the nfl and the RAIDERS!!
    See you in Canton, OH, August 2016!!!

  4. BOBBY RYAN
    August 19, 2015
    Reply

    The two biggest snubs by the NFL HOF. The HALL can right a wrong. Put the Snake into the PRO FOOTBALL HOF. INEXCUSABLE HE IS NOT IN. In the 1970’s Stabler was Joe Montana before Joe Montana. Do it this year. Meanwhile, we have to wait another year for Dr. Doom Robert Brazile of the Houston Oilers. He is deserving as a HO FAMER. Don’t wait till Dr. Doom dies like the Snake did?

    • August 20, 2015
      Reply

      Think both make it. Believe Brazile gets nominated in next year or two. Should be in. But so should Stabler. So many deserving seniors. Really wish Hall would go for Rick’s idea to celebrate 100th anniversary of league in 2020 by inducting 10. Clear some of that backlog of deserving guys who have been overlooked … or, worse, forgotten.

  5. craig canavan
    August 19, 2015
    Reply

    Stabler was one of the best quarterbacks of the 1970’s. He was involved in many iconic moments and beat the other quarterbacks already in the Hall. It is not all about stats……. Fame is the key word.

    • August 20, 2015
      Reply

      Madden’s comments about stats dead on. Look where Unitas ranked in passer rating. He’s buried. But never saw a better QB. To me, it’s all about the guy who can close the big deal. The QB you want with the ball in his hands in last two minutes of a big game. Stabler was one of those guys.

  6. August 19, 2015
    Reply

    Great piece, Clark. Thank you!

    • August 20, 2015
      Reply

      Mike, thanks for note. Sad that it took Stabler’s death to move this forward. just glad it happened sooner rather than later.

  7. Scott Dochterman
    August 19, 2015
    Reply

    Didn’t Stanfel get voted down just a few years ago? What makes him a more worthy candidate this time around than the 60 or so in the senior queue that Gosselin talks about not being able to even get discussed? Not only is it unpopular, it seems unfair.

    • August 20, 2015
      Reply

      It’s a good question and one that will be asked again. But he’s worthy. Really thought he’d make it three years ago.

  8. August 20, 2015
    Reply

    This says it all. Ken “The Snake” Stabler has earned a right to be in the H.O.F. and now is the time…thank you for this article!

    • August 20, 2015
      Reply

      Think he earned that right long time ago. Hope the board gets him in now. Feel good about his chances.

  9. Julie Osborne West
    August 20, 2015
    Reply

    Wonderful piece and it said it all. Ken Stabler will be in the HOF…..God bless.

  10. Shirley King
    August 20, 2015
    Reply

    So happy to see Kenny nominated for this honor. So deserving, and I am sad it could not have been done years ago. He would have been so happy and humbled. Good luck, Kenny, many miss you!

    • August 20, 2015
      Reply

      Agree. Think he would’ve enjoyed this. Sorry it took his death to fast track the process. But glad to see him nominated.

  11. Howard Hart
    August 20, 2015
    Reply

    The history of NFL football in the 1970s cannot be written without mentioning the Snake. It is long overdue. Induct him.

  12. Joh Becker
    August 20, 2015
    Reply

    Finally…The Snake so deserves this…God bless all all of his fans as well…

  13. Judy Spears
    August 20, 2015
    Reply

    It is way past time Clark Judge. You know it!! And others on that committee know it!! The time for at least 37 members (REALLY ALL 46 SHOULD) to drop back and throw a game winning touchdown to the end zone!! In February….. DO THE RIGHT THING!!!!

    • August 20, 2015
      Reply

      i don’t disagree. but can’t speak for others. i feel strongly about the guy. always have.

  14. Joe
    August 20, 2015
    Reply

    Clark, Do you know who else was considered for the Senior Nominee for the class of 2016?

    • August 20, 2015
      Reply

      i do. but ron was there and i’ll ask him to reply because he knows the process better.

  15. August 20, 2015
    Reply

    Since August, 8th, 2014, I’ve gathered nearly 6,300 signatures from fans demanding Kenny’s enshrinement. The fans are speaking loudly on his behalf. I sincerely hope the voters are listening.
    On behalf of Stabler fans everywhere, thanks for your outspoken support, Clark. It means a great deal to us.

  16. Sam Goldenberg
    August 24, 2015
    Reply

    Clark: I cannot deny that Stabler and Stanfel have credentials, but not nearly as many as Jerry Kramer. How Jerry Kramer is overlooked year after year is baffling. Stanfel played during the first 50 years of the NFL and was not on the 50th anniversary team. Kramer was not only on this team, he is only one not in the Hall of Fame. Based on just that, the selection of Stanfel over Kramer is erroneous. Not to mention the clutch performances Kramer made in the 1962, 1965 and 1967 NFL Championships games, or that over 50 Hall of Famers have endorsed him for the Hall of Fame. This is the third time Stanfel has been nominated by the Senior Committee. He was just nominated in 2012. No disrespect to Stabler or Stanfel, but the Hall of Fame is not complete without Jerry Kramer. I know the selection process is difficult, but Jerry Kramer’s omission is so blatant it cheapens the entire Hall of Fame.

  17. Steve
    August 25, 2015
    Reply

    The only anti-Stabler voice I’ve heard speak up since his untimely death is Peter King, seems to me every other voter I’ve heard comment over the last month is very much in his corner. I hope this happens, If Snake is not a “30th ballot” HOF’er then there should be no such thing as a “1st ballot” HOF’er.

    • August 27, 2015
      Reply

      Feel pretty strongly that Stabler makes it. Not sure about Stanfel. Been knocked down twice before, including three years ago.

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