For whatever reason, many like to disparage the career of Ken "The Snake" Stabler, which has prevented his inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
Yet, you cannot deny that Stabler would define the misfit image of the Raiders during the 1970s that has endured ever since, but more importantly, the history of the NFL and even college football cannot be told without frequent reference to Stabler.
Stabler's legendary career began at the University of Alabama under Paul 'Bear' Bryant, as a backup behind Joe Namath.
Stabler would finish 28-3-2 as the starter and would include legendary games and plays, such as the, "Run in the Mud," during the Iron Bowl.
Ironically, Stabler has always been snubbed by the media, even before his days with the Raiders. In 1966, Stabler led the Crimson Tide to an undefeated record of 11-0 and a 34-7 blowout of Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl, only to finish third in the polls behind Notre Dame and Michigan.
Why does that sound so eerily familiar (I questioned sarcastically)? When Raider fans complain about the media, you should remember that Stabler and the Raiders are just another example of a team that the media cannot pigeonhole, and so that team gets underrated.
It should also tell you that if you hate the way that the college title is decided, then you should love the Raiders.
Stabler's statistics stack-up well, relative to his contemporaries, and he excelled in an era when league rules weren't designed to protect the passing game.
The main argument against Stabler's inclusion in the Hall of Fame is the length of his career, yet Stabler played in and won more games than his contemporaries, whom included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Fouts, Bob Griese, Joe Namath, Roger Staubach; and technically, Stabler played in more games than Terry Bradshaw and lost fewer games.
An NFL MVP in 1974 and member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1970s, Stabler is also the winningest AFC quarterback for the 1970s after his starting career began during "The Immaculate Reception" game in 1972.
Stabler would also be branded for life as the NFL's greatest trickster with "The Holy Roller" play against the San Diego Chargers, but he also ended the postseasons for the Miami Dolphins in 1973 with "The Sea of Hands" play to Clarence Davis and the Baltimore Colts in 1977 with the "Ghost to the Post" play to Hall of Fame tight end Dave Casper.
I thought I'd also opine that I do believe that Stabler more than any other player is responsible for the NFL's decision in 1986 to implement the instant replay system.
Amongst the aforementioned plays like "The Holy Roller," the Raiders would also defeat the Patriots in the 1977 postseason (en route to the Super Bowl win), because the referee Ben Dreith wrongly penalized the defense for roughing the passer.
Instant replay has since created a trend in pro-sports. The NFL adopted the instant replay system because the USFL had implemented instant replay. Of course, the NFL technically lost in court to the USFL, in an anti-trust case in which Raiders owner Al Davis testified against the NFL.
The only way to defeat Al Davis was to re-write history.
Honorable Mention: Tim Brown, wide receiver/return specialist