Alabama football and Oakland Raiders great Ken Stabler died at 69 years old on Wednesday. Stabler's family confirmed the news Thursday evening. Stabler died of colon cancer.
A statement from the family described Stabler as "a kind, generous and unselfish man, never turning down an autograph request or an opportunity to help someone in need. A great quarterback, he was an even greater father to his three girls and grandfather to his two 'grand snakes.'"
Raiders owner Mark Davis released a statement on behalf of Oakland.
"The Raiders are deeply saddened by the passing of the great Ken Stabler," Davis said. "He was a cherished member of the Raider family and personified what it means to be a Raider. He wore the Silver and Black with Pride and Poise and will continue to live in the hearts of Raider fans everywhere. Our sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to Kenny's family."
Perhaps best known by his nickname, "The Snake," Stabler led Alabama to an undefeated season in 1966. He nearly didn't play in his final year with the Crimson Tide. Head coach Bear Bryant kicked him off the team for "non-conformism" before letting him back after Stabler convinced Bryant that he deserved a second chance. Stabler's "Run in the Mud" in 1967 helped Alabama beat Auburn.
Stabler was a second-round pick by the Raiders. He took over the starting job in 1973 and earned the first of four Pro Bowl appearances. In 1974, he was named NFL MVP after passing for 2,469 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
The 1976 season was arguably Stabler's best season, however. After completing a career-best 66.7 percent of his passes for and NFL-leading 2,737 yards and a career-high 27 touchdowns during the regular season, he marched the Raiders to a 32-14 Super Bowl victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Stabler did not throw an interception in three playoff games during the championship run.
Stabler's Raiders head coach John Madden called his former quarterback "a perfect Raider."
"I was head coach of the Raiders the entire time Kenny was there and he led us to a whole bunch of victories including one in Super Bowl XI. I've often said, If I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny. Snake was a lot cooler than I was. He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider. When you think about the Raiders you think about Ken Stabler. Kenny loved life. It is a sad day for all Raiders."
Despite rocky stints with the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints after his time in Oakland, Stabler is considered one of the best players to have never made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After retiring from football, Stabler had a long career as a broadcaster, working as a color commentator on NFL games for CBS, then in a radio booth for Alabama football.
The full statement from Stabler's family is below: