Under Ken Stabler's Hall of Fame leadership, the Oakland Raiders got their first taste of greatness and his passing proficiency led the league for several years. In this top list, we highlight some of the best Ken Stabler card appearances throughout his notable pro career.
An Alabama native, Stabler joined the Crimson Tide as a freshman when Joe Namath was leading the team to the national title. Stabler took over the starting QB role in his junior year and guided the team to a perfect 11-0 season, yet they only finished third in the final polls. While at Alabama, Stabler earned the nickname "The Snake" for his ability to twist and turn on the field when he was forced to scramble out of the pocket. Overall, he finished with an impressive 28-3-2 collegiate career and was drafted by the Raiders in the 1968 draft.
Although he was drafted in the second round, Stabler didn't enter the NFL immediately and instead played for the Spokane Shockers in the short-lived Continental Football League in 1968 and 1969. The league included teams from Mexico and Canada but, unfortunately, there aren't any trading cards honoring Stabler's time there.
Finally joining the Oakland Raiders in 1970, Stabler developed into an elite pocket passer and was the AFC Player of the Year in 1974 and 1976. The 1976 season saw the Raiders face the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI with Stabler out-dueling Fran Tarkenton 32-14 to earn the Raiders their first championship.
Following the 1979 season, Stabler was traded to the Houston Oilers in the hopes that he would give the team a passing game that would match their running game headlined by Earl Campbell. Collectors can find Stabler's Oilers card appearances in 1980, 1981, and 1982 Topps. Stabler finished his career with the New Orleans Saints and his single cardboard appearance as their quarterback is found in 1983 Topps.
The 1978 Fleer Team Action set included cards devoted to each Super Bowl and collectors can find Stabler handing off the ball on the Super Bowl XI card, giving him a rare non-Topps trading card from his playing days. Issued after his retirement, 1989 Pro Set included a smaller series devoted to announcers and Stabler was featured from his work on CBS.
Ken Stabler passed away in 2015, making it bittersweet that he was finally elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. He entered the Hall of Fame with Detroit Lions offensive lineman Dick Stanfel via the Senior Committee. This group selects players for enshrinement that have been out of the game for at least 25 years.
Because he had his greatest success with the Oakland Raiders, collectors tend to gravitate toward the early Ken Stabler releases. With that in mind, this top list attempts to balance the popularity of his early cards with later appearances, including contemporary sets, to build a comprehensive collection.
Top 10 Ken Stabler Football Cards
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Stabler's final card with the Raiders can be found in 1979 Topps before he was traded to the Oilers. The design of the 1979 set would prove to be very familiar to fans who remembered that 1973 Topps (which includes Stabler's rookie card) also had the multi-colored flag design down the right side of the card. Adding both of these cards would serve as a nice bookend to your Stabler collection.
The back of Stabler's 1978 Topps card notes that his pass completion percentage was one of the best ever. When his time with the Raiders was over, he was the team leader in completions, passing yards, and touchdowns.
I personally enjoy football cards that give you a feeling of the game environment. You can tell it was chilly during that Raiders vs. Chicago Bears game and all that is missing is some steam coming off the players. Along with this card, Stabler was also featured in 1977 Topps with card #1 which highlighted the previous season's passing leaders.
These cards issued by McDonald's in 1975 were intended to be more of a coupon than a trading card as customers could receive 25 cents off a Big Mac Meal by redeeming the bottom portion of the card. There are only four cards in the set with Terry Bradshaw's card holding the most value. However, it is likely that many were redeemed to get that "quarter back."
Although he didn't lead Alabama to a national championship, Stabler further increased his popularity with the Crimson Tide faithful after becoming one of the team's home radio announcers following his NFL career. When Upper Deck held the NCAA football card license, they issued several sets with autograph cards featuring Stabler during his collegiate days, including the card below from 2012 UD University of Alabama.
Some quarterbacks took advantage of rules in the 1970s that allowed the use of smaller and less protective face guards for kickers and QBs. The smaller face mask is on display on Stabler's 1976 Topps card and you can also make out his trademark beard and mullet under his helmet.
Along with this great action of shot of Stabler trying to beat the Cleveland Browns' pass rush, you can also find a regular base card and a Pro Bowl card featuring him in 1975 Topps. His Pro Bowl card is shared with Fran Tarkenton, who he would meet later in Super Bowl XI.
Stabler was a frequent signer in high-end football products from both Topps and Upper Deck, so collectors hunting for his autograph have many choices to choose from. As seen in 2003 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection, his autograph is known for the oversized "K" and the bottom loop on the "S" of his last name.
Some of Stabler's passing success was attributed to being left-handed which gave defenses a different look than they would typically see. His 1974 Topps card shows him passing over the top of Baltimore Colts tackle Joe Schmiesing. Stabler threw for over 300 yards passing in that game, an uncommon feat in the 1970s.
Although he had been in the NFL since 1970 and a professional player since 1968, it wasn't until 1973 Topps that Stabler was featured on a trading card. Stabler's first card rivals Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris' rookie card as the key option in the release. Topps issued the entire 1973 set all at once, eliminating the more limited high-number series and giving collectors a better chance to track down all the cards.