(Photo Courtesy of Oakland Raiders)
Talk of Fame Network
For years, quarterback Ken Stabler had a reputation as one of the NFL's best closers -- someone you could count on for last-minute, come-from-behind victories. Three decades later, nothing's changed.
A late surge at the polls Tuesday propelled Stabler to yet another comeback win -- this time with Stabler edging cornerback Lester Hayes as our readers' choice for the Oakland Raider not in Canton who most belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Stabler picked up a rush of last-minute votes to win 46 percent of the total, with Hayes finishing second at 41 percent, followed by wide receiver Cliff Branch (10 percent) and tight end Todd Christensen (3 percent).
The result was not unexpected. When our Ron Borges wrote a State Your Case column on Stabler earlier this year, arguing that he belonged in the Hall, it was met by an overwhelmingly favorable response. Those fans turned out late Tuesday, stuffing the ballot box late to launch Stabler to a narrow victory that seemed to belong to Hayes.
Until the last two hours, that is.
"I was surprised how it went down," said Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network, "but I agree with the voters. I had Stabler in a photo-finish, but, I'll be honest: I would've had Stabler in the Hall by now."
Borges, Judge's colleague at the Talk of Fame and a beat writer who once covered the Raiders, agreed.
"This is a painfully difficult decision," he admitted, "because at least three of them deserve Hall-of-Fame consideration. In the end, though, it's the triggerman you have to go with. Kenny Stabler won nearly 66 percent of his starts and was one of the most feared quarterbacks of his time. For him not to be in the Hall when Dan Fouts is ... well, it's ridiculous."
Rick Gosselin of the Talk of Fame Network, was the lone dissenter. He chose Hayes, and it's hard to argue with his reasoning.
"Hayes and Mike Haynes were arguably the best cornerback tandem the game has ever seen," he said. "But only half of that tandem is in the Hall of Fame."
That half (Mike Haynes) supported Hayes when he was a guest on the Talk of Fame Radio Network, saying if there's one Raider not in the Hall that he'd push for Canton it would be Lester Hayes. He was not alone. Hayes led at the polls for most of the past week, until Stabler somehow caught him at the finish line.