RIP Kenny Stabler, RIP Snake

I love the Oakland Raiders.

They are my team – the first team I ever cheered for. I like to joke that I came out of the womb saying RAAAAAAIIIIIIIII-DERS, instead of crying like most babies.

I was born in Oakland but raised in Arizona. There was no NFL team at the time, so I went with the team of my birthplace. Silver-and-black. No other team had silver-and-black. For whatever reason, I found that cool as a kid.

The Raiders became part of my identity. I was a good kid (at least I think so), but the Raiders weren’t. They were rebellious and did things their own way, led by owner Al Davis. They played hard. On and off the field, not that I would have known that when I was a kid. But, they were gritty and tough and they represented everything I thought of Oakland to be.

And Kenny Stabler represented the Raiders.

Stabler’s #12 was the only “jersey” I owned as a kid. I loved Cliff Branch too, but Stabler was “The Snake”. He was one of those quarterbacks that knew when to be elusive and knew when to hang tough in the pocket. His scrambling ability, well, I just thought that was so awesome. I didn’t see anyone else like him in the NFL.

Not that I paid attention, mind you (notable exception: Fran Tarkenton). Stabler was my guy. He was the quarterback on my team. He was special to watch:


He should be in the Hall of Fame, but he’s not. Longtime NFL writer, Russell Baxter, had this to say when asked about Stabler as a hall of famer: “I think he is. There was always the thing about him “reading the playbook by the light of the jukebox”. He was a magician. He was something to watch. The two guys I thought were the best were Staubach and Stabler.”


Baxter continued, “They (Raiders) were phenomenal teams in a conference where there were two other phenomenal teams: Dolphins, Steelers. There was nothing better in the 70’s than the Raiders-Steelers. It started with the Immaculate Reception and just kept getting better.” Stabler was a key part of that rivalry. Bradshaw gets the notoriety because of the Super Bowl victories and broadcast career, but Stabler was every bit the quarterback and more. 

“He was a model of consistency,” says Baxter. “I know people will go over the numbers. Before the rules changed, 70’s quarterbacks were nothing about the numbers. They were all about controlling the game. Stabler was a great player on a great team that was unfortunately overshadowed by greater teams.”


I’m sad today knowing Snake is gone. Almost to the point of tears, which isn’t normal for me. But, he was part of my childhood. I saw Stabler as the heart and soul of my Raiders. Whatever the Raiders were about, you saw it in Stabler.

He was the epitome of my team, on and off the field. I didn’t know anything about his partying ways when I was a kid. I probably wouldn’t have cared. I just wanted him to win.

And winning he did.

If you grew up as a Raiders fan, you loved Stabler. There was no one else you wanted as your quarterback. I’m glad I got the chance to see him, albeit never in person. I’m glad he was my quarterback.

RIP Kenny Stabler. RIP Snake.




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