1972-Oakland Raiders moved Kenny Stabler past George Blanda as the Number Two quarterback. Stabler relieved Daryl Lamonica in three different times during the season. The near miss came in the first round of the playoffs.
Oakland was trailing the Steelers 3 to 0 early in the fourth quarter in a game more exciting than the score indicates. The Raiders were having no success moving the ball with Lamonica at quarterback. John Madden gave Ken Stabler the green light. In Stabler’s first series, he fumbled deep in Oakland territory, the Steelers recovered, and kicked a field goal for a 6 to 0 lead. Ken Stabler, even in those early years, never lost his cool. He directed a drive after the kickoff to the Pittsburgh 30. KS dropped back, found all the receivers covered, then ran 30 yards for a touchdown. It looked as if Oakland had won, 7 to 6. Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris with the Miraculous Reception ended Oakland’s season. Oakland lost 13 to 7.
In 1973, the Oakland Raiders lost two of their first three and had not scored an offensive touchdown. Coach Madden replaced Lamonica with Stabler, this time for good. The Zone Defenses had cut down on Daryl Lamonica’s ability to throw his famous long bomb. Ken Stabler had dagger like throws but could also throw the long pass if required. In his youth of course, Stabler was also a better scrambler. The Raiders went to the AFC Championship Game every year from 1973 to 1977. Of these five games, the Raiders won only in 1976, 24 to 7 over Pittsburgh. That year they went on to defeat the Minnesota Vikings 32 to 14 in the Super Bowl.
Stabler was 1-4 in AFC Championship Games. That may be the reason why he is not in the HOF, at least for now.