Raiders QB Ken Stabler drops to throw during the Silver and Black's win over the Baltimore Colts in the 1977 AFC Divisional Playoffs in what would be remembered as the "Ghost to the Post" game.
I was four years old when the Oakland Raiders defeated the Miami Dolphins in the 1974 AFC Divisional Playoffs in what would become known as the "Sea of Hands" game. So, I am not old enough to remember watching the game live. But what I do remember is the old "Alcoa Fantastic Finishes" that used to air as the network carrying the game went to or came out of commercial. I still get chills thinking of or hearing play-by-play announcer Curt Gowdy calling that play.
Kenny Stabler went on to lead the Raiders to their first Super Bowl win, a dominating 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings after the 1976 season. The Snake still ranks as the Raiders all-time leading passer.
Drafted in the 2nd round in 1968 out of University of Alabama, Stabler had to wait his turn after missing his first two seasons. When he got his shot he made the most of it, leading the Raiders to five straight AFC Championship game appearances and eventually a Super Bowl XI title.
I'll never forget the game-changing, game-winning plays Stabler engineered when I was old enough to watch on television. From the "Ghost to the Post" in 1977 and the "Holy Roller" in 1978, to countless impossible needle-threading passes to Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, Dave Casper, Raymond Chester, Morris Bradshaw, Mike Siani, Bob Moore and many others.
In 1978's Great Quarterbacks of Pro Football, Revised Edition, by Steve Gelman and Rita Golden Gelman, the Gelmans described how Stabler got his nickname, Snake. He discussed how discouraged he was before he got his chance. His anecdotes in this book cemented Stabler as one of my favorite players as a kid.
The Gelmans wrote:
*In Foley, Alabama, where Ken was born and grew up, he starred in basketball, baseball and football for the town high school. Playing for the Foley High football team as a freshman, Ken ran back one punt 70 yards for a touchdown. But he zigged and zagged side to side so much to elude tacklers he actually ran about 300 yards before he made it over the goal line. "Boy," said the coach, "you ran just like a snake!" *
From then on, Ken's nickname was "Snake."
During my career with the Raiders, I had the opportunity to interact with Stabler a few times. He was always polite and gracious and was happy to accommodate my requests for interviews and whatnot.
Kenny "The Snake" Stabler provided me with countless heroic memories and helped deliver the Raiders' first Super Bowl title. It is with great sadness that I write this – but I am extremely proud to have watched the quarterback play and speak to the man himself.
Thank you for the thrills and fantastic finishes, Snake.