NAPA _ Had lots of stuff left over from story earlier this week on former Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler, who will be inducted Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The story went on-line Tuesday and was in print in Thursday’s editions of the Bay Area News Group papers . .
“When I got to the Raiders, Kenny as third string, behind Daryle Lamonica and George Blanda, but everybody knew the talent he had. The arm, the vision, it was just going to be a matter of time.”
“We were drafted in the same year, 1968, and the Raiders brought in all their draft picks, and that was the first time I met him. Kenny and I became very good friends. He was from the south (Alabama), I was from the south (Georgia) and we hit it off. We both had an accent and everybody kind of razzed us about it.
“We used to drive cross country ever year, we’d follow each other, and we’d have a lot of fun. A lot of fun.”
“I met Kenny in 1970, my rookie year. He wasn’t the starter, but he was fighting for the job. I was competing with Mike Siani, our No. 1 draft pick. We both ended up starting a game in Pittsburgh, and things weren’t going well for Kenny. John Madden decided make a change at halftime and brought in Blanda.
“On the first play, Blanda threw me a post and it dropped through my arms. So John puts Lamonica back in. Lamonica throws two touchdown passes to Siani and I don’t play for a year and a half. Kenny lost his job on the same day I lost mine.”
“I met him when he came out of school, a left-handed kid with a great reputation as a ballplayer. He was just impressive. You could see right from the start he had that good maturity level to him, and knowledge. He was just a leader. You could see it in him.”
“A young guy, not too cocky, but you could see he had a lot of confidence in himself. He relied on his ability and for his teammates to do the rest. First couple of practices, you could see he was ready. He had to wait his turn, but he was ready on Day 1. If he’d have been named the starter right away, I’d have been all right with that.”
“He was an outstanding athlete and a charming man, a Southern gentleman. I mean, you watch his highlight films, that’s all you should need to know about whether he should be in to the Hall of Fame.
“When I got there in 1977, the Raiders had just won the Super Bowl. But he never gave rookies a hard time. He loved his team, his players, his teammates. It was a family and he brought us in with open arms.”
“I told Kenny in 1977 that I was one of the luckiest guys in the world. I got to play in San Francisco with John Brodie and then I got to play with Kenny Stabler. He was just a down to earth guy. He didn’t have an air about him. He wasn’t aloof. He could talk with anybody. Just one of the guys.
“When I went to Baltimore (traded for Bubba Smith), Kenny was starting his ascent as a player. I had been talking to our defense and the Raiders approach to the passing game. They’d run 14 yard curls and come back to 10 and get the ball to you. I’d been prepping our guys all week. Then Kenny comes out and completes, I think it was 17 consecutive passes. The Colts lost.”
“He called all his own plays _ people don’t understand that now _ and he picked people apart, set defenses up. He was in charge. From the first time he was on the field, the guy was a leader.”
“Nothing really fazed Kenny. Even if he didn’t get great pass protection and would get sacked, he’d get up, shake it off and rock and roll. I never saw him rattled. Never. He’d be on the sideline talking to John Madden and say, `Look these crazy fans, man. They’re getting their money’s worth today,’ and we’d be going to overtime.”
“Kenny wanted to play but wasn’t getting a chance. Al (Davis) sent him to Spokane to play and that was a disaster. I think he came back halfway through the year because he was beat up. I think it really helped Kenny that George Blanda was there. Kenny learned a lot from George. Kenny just had to wait his time, and then when he jumped in, he picked up the beat right away.”
“We had a game against New Orleans when we were down 35-7 at halftime and came back and won the game 42-35. Greatest comeback of all-time. I remember one year, I swear I think he completed every pass he threw to Dave Casper for an entire season except for one. He called his own plays, we’d score a touchdown, he’d come to the sideline and John Madden would tell him, `That’s a good one.’ ”
“Just a born leader. He would get everybody involved. In between plays, he would talk to the receivers and backs, get our feedback about what might work. But when we got in the huddle, it was his huddle. He’d say, `Everybody alert . . . break’ . . . Then we’d break and all the wide receivers, the two backs and the tight end _ everybody left thinking we were going to get the ball. So you never stopped working with Kenny.”
“He was a chess player. He could read defenses.”
“A lot of players were one person on the field, and another person off the field. That’s the way it was with Kenny. He had one personality on the field, then off the field he was this engaging personality. Made everyone feel comfortable. And everybody loved both personalities.”
“It was a different generation. We all partied, we all drank, people smoked cigarettes. They don’t go out and do the things we used to do as a team. It’s a business. John Madden had two rules _ do your job and don’t be late. We weren’t late for curfew at 11 o’clock, but after curfew, he didn’t say we couldn’t go out. He never made that a rule. So you’d go out, and if you met up with the coaches, you’d have a beer, talk football, girls, life, whatever.”
“He could comprehend a game plan and then still have a great social life. He’d say, `How many hours of sleep do I need to play a three-hour football game?’ And he’d still be sharp.”
“I would have loved to seen him in an offense like they have now, with four wide receivers. He’d be picking people apart. He could make plays. He could throw the ball, maybe not the strongest arm but he could get it out there.”
“His arm was great. I don’t know why people say it wasn’t. He could throw any pass you’d want _ short, deep, intermediate. He got plenty of deep passes off to Cliff Branch.”
“I have a problem with the way the Hall of Fame is run, with some of the younger guys that get in while players like Kenny have to wait their turn. I mean, if you’re going with statistics it’s tough because of the way the game has changed. But to make a guy wait all that time _ and then die before he gets in _ that’s not right.”
“The tragedy of the thing is he should have been here, enjoying it. It should have been done a long time ago. There’s no excuse for that.”
“I never got a good explanation as to why it didn’t happen earlier. His play was as good or better than most quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame. And I believe a lot of guys that are in the Hall of Fame probably wonder why he wasn’t there earlier. Without any reservation.”