Stabler’s death puts renewed focus on Hall’s senior committee


Photo courtesy of Oakland Raiders

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(Photos courtesy of the Oakland Raiders)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

With the passing of Ken Stabler, there will be increased pressure on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s senior committee to put the former Oakland Raiders’ great into Canton.

And I get it.

Stabler was one of the toughest, most dangerous and most reliable quarterbacks of the 1970s – especially in the clutch. When we interviewed former GM Ernie Accorsi on the Talk of Fame Network earlier this year he said the mark of a great quarterback was how he performed in crunch times of big games.

Ken Stabler passed the test.

OK, so he didn’t have glittering numbers. And, yes, he threw more interceptions – 28 more, in fact – than touchdown passes. But he was the lynchpin to a lethal Oakland offense that was driven by a methodical rushing attack and supported by Stabler’s deep strikes to receivers like Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch and Dave Casper.

In fact, it was Casper whom Stabler found with a legendary fourth-quarter pass (“Ghost to the Post”) in an unforgettable 1977 playoff defeat of Baltimore – a pass that set up Errol Mann’s game-tying field goal and sent the game to overtime. Fittingly, it was Stabler won who it in double overtime with a 10-yard Stabler touchdown pass to Casper.

“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.”

And that’s what I loved about this guy. Stabler knew how to win, period, and that’s how I measure quarterbacks. Including the playoffs, he was 103-54-1, a winning percentage of .657. No, he didn’t have the strongest or most accurate arm, but he was surgical when it mattered most – and the numbers proved it. With the Raiders, he led 19 fourth-quarter comebacks and 26 game-winning drives. Moreover, he won nearly 72 percent of his games with them.

But that’s not all. He won his first 100 games faster than any quarterback up to that time (150 games), breaking Johnny Unitas’ mark of 153 starts. Since then only three quarterbacks – Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Tom Brady – bettered Stabler’s mark. Plus, he not only won a Super Bowl and was a league MVP but is the only quarterback from the 1970s’ all-decade team not in Canton.

He had a better winning percentage than Miami’s Bob Griese. He had a better playoff percentage, too. And he was more accurate than both Griese and Fran Tarkenton. Griese and Tarkenton are in the Hall of Fame. Ken Stabler is not.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Kenny Stabler was one of the best quarterbacks who ever lived,” said Hall-of-Famer Joe Namath.

“Absolutely,” said Hall-of-Fame back Franco Harris. “No question, Kenny Stabler should be in the Hall of Fame.”

But he’s not, and don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because of his off-the-field reputation. Maybe it’s because of those interceptions. Or maybe it’s because his career sputtered after he left Oakland and finished up in Houston and New Orleans, where he produced 44 touchdowns and 79 interceptions in five seasons.

I don’t know what it is … or was. All I know is what a group of former Pittsburgh Steelers told Bama Mag’s A.P. Steadham recently when he interviewed them about Stabler (http://www.scout.com/college/alabama/story/1559684-steelers-endorse-stabler-for-pro-hall-of-fame). They were not only surprised but appalled that he’s not in the Hall of Fame.

Maybe that changes now. Maybe it changes soon.  The Hall this year can push two senior nominees, and the heat just went up for a committee that has too many worthy candidates waiting for admission.

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4 Comments

  1. Mike Avolio
    July 9, 2015
    Reply

    Stabler is yet another long overdue player for the HOF. ..

    When is the NFL going to upgrade the voting process so more deserving players can be voted in each year ?

    • July 9, 2015
      Reply

      Senior committee is overburdened with so many deserving candidates — including Stabler. Having two a year doesn’t clear the queue, but with introduction of contributor category the seniors drop to one in 2017 and 2019. For 50th Super Bowl, should do something special for seniors — like allow a group of 10 or 20 in. Believe me, there are too many qualified candidates to count.

  2. Steve
    July 13, 2015
    Reply

    These voters are just too focused on every year’s crop of “no brainer first-ballot” candidates, which is a joke. Warren Sapp et. al could have waited a couple of years while guys like Stabler get in. He WILL get in, it’s inevitable. Peter King is the only guy with a megaphone I’ve seen in the past week who gives him a thumbs-down, practically every other player he played with/against and voter has advocated his inclusion.

    Now when he does finally get in, his family will have to celebrate without him, and that’s sad. Shame on the Peter Kings of the voter’s committee.

  3. August 20, 2015
    Reply

    In just over a year, I’ve gathered over 6,250 signatures demanding Stabler’s enshrinement. The fans are speaking loudly on his behalf. I truly hope the voters are listening.
    Your outspoken support is GREATLY appreciated, Clark.

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