Bleacher Report NFL writer Mike Freeman dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Wednesday to discuss his new book, “Snake: The Legendary Life of Ken Stabler,” which chronicles the on-field and off-field story of the infamous Raiders quarterback.
Stabler, who won a national title at Alabama, led Oakland to victory in Super Bowl XI. He was also NFL MVP in 1974, a four-time Pro Bowler and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But that only tells part of the story.
“Part of him was definitely a party guy. No question about it,” Freeman said on Tiki and Tierney. “But away from the field, he was really genuinely adored by his teammates. They loved him. He was a tough guy. He would get picked up and slammed on his head. We know he suffered a lot of concussions. The players really respected his toughness. But away from the field, he would become a really great father, and his whole personality would change not long after he left the game. He got very close to his three daughters. He became a completely different guy after he left the game than in the game.
“For all the partying he did, when he was on the field – either the practice field or the playing field – he was all business,” Freeman continued. “Very calm, professional, there was no games when he was playing. It was all professional stuff. Once the game ended, all bets were off. He would go out, he’d go party, he’d meet with women. But when games and when practices started, there was no more professional guy.”
Asked to compare Stabler to a quarterback in the NFL, Freeman didn’t hesitate.
“Aaron Rodgers,” Freeman said. “Maybe a taller Russell Wilson, but I would say Aaron Rodgers.”
That was an interesting comparison, especially since Stabler, who died in July 2015 at the age of 69, was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“A lot of the voters, some of whom I know and are really good at what they do, a lot of it is about statistical data and Stabler is just not a statistical guy,” said Freeman. “No. 1, he played in an era where they didn’t throw the ball a lot. No. 2, he was relied very heavily on. He was the whole offense, basically, and he took a lot of chances and he threw some picks, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of touchdowns because he played in an era where he just didn’t throw the ball as much. And frankly, he was just battered. He was hit a lot.”
Stabler, in fact, threw 222 interceptions in his career to just 194 touchdowns.
“But despite those interceptions,” Freeman said, “he was as accurate a quarterback as you’ll ever see.”