Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

HOF needs to 'throw deep' and vote for Stabler

If Tom Hanks had a ballot, the Pro Football Hall of Fame wouldn't be missing a key piece of NFL history.

Unfortunately, Hanks isn't one of the 46 people who'll be voting when the Class of 2016 is decided on Saturday. That means Ken Stabler might lose in his last shot, though the real loser would be the Hall of Fame.

The Snake was an all-time football charmer. Millions of people were saddened when he died of colon cancer last July. Sentimentality kicked in and the Senior Committee submitted him as one of two nominees this voting cycle.

Stabler has been viewed as a borderline candidate since he retired in 1984. Voters are slaves to statistics, and Stabler supposedly didn't measure up in the numbers game.

He had too many interceptions. His excellence was erratic. And did his heart really beat hard enough for football?

After doing some research, the only response to those knocks is, "Huh?"

Stabler went to five straight AFC championship games. Isn't that sustained brilliance?

Even in his twilight, Stabler guided the New Orleans Saints and the Houston Oilers to their best records ever. He won a Super Bowl, was an NFL MVP, won 100 games faster than any QB in history.

Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw and Stabler were the three quarterbacks voted to the 1970s All-Decade Team. Every all-decade quarterback from 1940s to the 1990s is in the Hall except Stabler.

Yes, he threw 222 interceptions and 194 touchdowns. Most came when he had to carry struggling teams later in his career. And there are nine quarterbacks in Canton who threw more interceptions than touchdowns.

But forget numbers. No spreadsheet could measure Stabler's style and impact.

He got his nickname as kid quarterback in Foley, Ala., when he kept slithering out of trouble. Miami Dolphins fans are still haunted by the "Sea of Hands" play in the 1974 AFC title game. A staggering Stabler lobbed the ball into a thicket of defenders and found running back Clarence Davis for the winning score for the Oakland Raiders.

Stabler had creaky knees, a hint of a pot belly and sweat-drenched hair flowed from the back of his helmet. His lefty passes were far more precise than powerful, but nobody was cooler under pressure.

He was like the Old West poker player who sat there grinning, knowing he'd draw an inside straight on the last card. Stabler was once asked about a line from Jack London:

"I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet."

What did that mean?

"Throw deep," Stabler cracked.

It was his life philosophy. The term "studying the playbook by the light of a jukebox" was invented for The Snake.

It helped forge the Raiders' aura. Even today, the woebegone franchise is No. 3 in NFL jersey sales. Stabler's family should get a cut of every merchandising dollar.

Beneath the party boy image was a serious leader. Stabler never let teammates see him hurt. He'd meet the trainer after hours to get treatment for injuries.

That stoicism remained till the end. Stabler told only his closest family he was sick. Among those shocked by the news was a future movie icon.

Hanks grew up in Oakland during Stabler's reign. He even signs off emails with "Throw Deep, Baby." Hanks sent a letter to Stabler's daughters.

"Your father, with his left-handedness and those two bad knees, displayed a permanent smile of bemusement that said — win or lose — 'ain't this fun?' I really did see in him the honor to be found in playing the game, of using one's God-given talent, of taking pleasure in the effort."

Stabler wouldn't want to get in on a sentimental vote. He deserves to get in on his play.

But if it helps, somebody should read Hanks' letter to the voters on Saturday. Maybe they'll finally get the message.

Throw deep, baby.

— Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

HOF needs to 'throw deep' and vote for Stabler 02/02/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 2, 2016 10:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Crosstown rivals Bloomingdale-Newsome kick off season


    LITHIA — In a week filled with area football rivalries, there is a game on the east side of Hillsborough County — Bloomingdale vs. Newsome — that has matured into a classic crosstown battle, complete with classic cliches.

    Bloomingdale wide receiver Ed Amos charges through a drill a few days before the big rivalry game against Newsome on Friday night.
  2. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Several key players still sidelined


    Greg Auman gives an injury update, with several key players still sidelined from practice three days before the Bucs play the Cleveland Browns in Tampa, and a full recap of your favorite scenes from Tuesday …

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans was held out of practice Wednesday at One Buc Place. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  3. Playoff ambitions evident in opener for Zephyrhills, Wiregrass Ranch


    WESLEY CHAPEL — A new football season in Pasco County begins Friday night, but this one promises to be like none before it — with more math than ever. A new playoff system emphasizes schedule strength, making non-district tilts particularly important.

    Wiregrass Ranch wide receiver Jordan Miner catches a pass in spring practice at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel on Monday, May 1, 2017.
  4. Dirk Koetter says Bucs used team meeting to discuss social issues


    During a 20-minute team meeting Tuesday, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter decided to turn the discussion to social issues and whether players are expected to stand for the national anthem.

    "The main thing is we have to respect everybody's opinion," Dirk Koetter said, "because everybody is not going to agree." [AP photo]
  5. Rookie tight end Antony Auclair making case to stick with Bucs


    Don't let his modest preseason stats fool you: Antony Auclair, the undrafted rookie tight end from Canada is making a strong case to stick around on the Bucs' 53-man roster this season.

    Bucs tight end Antony Auclair (82) collides with a defender following a catch during training camp. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]