Most likely, at any given moment there is a person somewhere who says with shock "Ken Stabler isn't in the Hall of Fame?" That shock factor was turned up a few notches yesterday upon the news of his death, and the reaction to his passing has only ramped up the feeling that it is an absolute travesty he is not immortalized in the NFL's hallowed halls.
In the hours following the news of Stabler's passing of cancer at the age of 69, the outpouring of respect and nostalgia of his legend was astounding for a player the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee doesn't think is worthy of being honored.
But not only is Stabler not in the Hall, the committee has simply given up even trying. Lately he hasn't even been nominated. No, I don't mean he wasn't a finalist. I mean among over 100 nominees each year, he has not been among them. As if they're saying ‘We all know already that we won't be letting him in, so why even bother with the charade?'
It makes it somewhat more interesting that even the Pro Football Hall of Fame site was among those to put together a tribute piece about Stabler. Strange seeing a tribute to a man they think is entirely inconsequential in the history of the NFL.
The NFL Network has devoted their entire day of programming to the legend of Stabler. Now, how often do you see that for a player not in the Hall of Fame?
Probably the most poignant response to all of this came from San Francisco Chronicle writer Ann Killion.
If a league's network dedicates a day to playing games a player starred in, that player should probably be in that league's hall of fame.— Ann Killion (@annkillion) July 10, 2015
Many others have made statements about how much Stabler -- a Super Bowl winning quarterback and leader of one of the great teams of the 70s -- is everything you expect from a Hall of Famer.
His former Head coach John Madden said on Friday he sees no logical reason why Stabler is not in the Hall of Fame
"He was one of the greatest competitors ever," said Madden over conference call. "When you think of the Raiders of the 70s, Ken Stabler has to be right on top. Of all the people I've coached, and I've coached a lot of great ones, a lot of Hall of Famers, and he's one of the guys that's really at the top of the class."
"If you just look at how he played and what kind of quarterback he [was], he's a Hall of Fame quarterback. I think what happens is we get so caught up today in statistics and then comparing statistics and you can't do that with different eras. . . you compare those to today and the game today and it's not fair. That's the only thing that I can think of."
"We had great rivalries with the Miami Dolphins who were one of the best teams in the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers were also one of the best teams in the history of the NFL. Terry Bradshaw's in the Hall of Fame and Bob Griese's in the Hall of Fame and look at Kenny's record when he played those."
The stats Madden refers to have Stabler's career passing numbers comparable several other Hall of Fame quarterbacks of his era including Griese, Bradshaw, and Joe Namath. And his playoff record is comparable to Griese and Namath.
While Stabler was at the helm of the Raiders, they rarely lost. He had a career record of 69-26. In his seven seasons as the fulltime starter in Oakland, he took them to the playoffs six times with a playoff record of 7-5 and a Super Bowl win. In that Super Bowl run, everyone knew the bigger game was the 24-7 win over the Steelers in the AFC Championship game. It's a big reason Al Davis had the score of that game engraved on the Super Bowl rings.
Recently, some Steelers greats said Ken Stabler is Hall of Fame worthy. And since his death, every one of his rival clubs have come out publicly and expressed their condolences and showed their respect for his greatness. Many of those teams were on the receiving end of a Stabler masterpiece which went down in history as one of the NFL's greatest games.
Madden said of Stabler "He was probably involved in more games that have names than anyone."
Games like The Sea of Hands, Ghost to the Post, Holy Roller, and Immaculate Reception all involved Ken Stabler heroics. Yes, I add the Immaculate Reception because had it not been for Stabler coming off the bench to score a touchdown, the Steelers would have never been in the situation where they needed a miraculous stroke of luck to pull out the win on the final play. Stabler put them there.
Stabler defined an era of football and a launched a dynasty in Oakland. He is an icon of the NFL and was beloved by all who played with him or most anyone who knew him off the field.
One can only hope the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been paying attention the past 24 hours and realizes that perhaps they need to rethink and revisit Ken Stabler's worthiness for enshrinement. It's just too bad Stabler is not alive to see it.