Legendary Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler dies at age 69

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) -- Legendary 1970s era Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler, who led the team to their first Super Bowl victory in 1977, has passed away at age 69.

Reports surfaced earlier Thursday after a Tuscaloosa newspaper posted what it later said was an unconfirmed report on its website of the former NFL great's death that was later retracted. The report was picked up by a variety of news organizations across the country.

Within an hour of that retraction, additional reports regarding Stabler's passing from colon cancer were published citing confirmation from the University of Alabama and eventually from Stabler family members.

The family's statement posted to Stabler's Facebook page said he "passed peacefully" on Wednesday while surrounded by family, including his three daughters. 

The Raiders organization released a statement early Thursday evening. "The Raiders are deeply saddened by the passing of the great Ken Stabler," said Owner Mark Davis. "He was a cherished member of the Raider family and personified what it means to be a Raider. He wore the Silver and Black with Pride and Poise and will continue to live in the hearts of Raider fans everywhere. Our sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to Kenny’s family."

His coach with the Raiders during the 1970s John Madden issued the following statement:

"I was head coach of the Raiders the entire time Kenny was there and he led us to a whole bunch of victories including one in Super Bowl XI.  I've often said, If I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny.  Snake was a lot cooler that I was.  He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider. When you think about the Raiders you think about Ken Stabler.  Kenny loved life.  It is a sad day for all Raiders."

The four-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who earned the nickname "The Snake" during his high-school days, was a star for coach Bear Bryant with the Crimson Tide and was drafted by the Raiders out of Alabama as a second round pick in 1968. 

Stabler did not play until the 1970 season and became part of a shifting quarterback drama involving then starter Daryle Lamonica and George Blanda before finally earning the starting position. Stabler led the NFL in touchdown passes in 1974 and 1976 in addition to being named AFC Player of the Year those two years and NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1974.

It was his incredible performance during the 1976 season that helped the Raiders reach the Super Bowl for a second time. Oakland defeated the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 in Super Bowl XI. Though it was the team's only championship during the 1970s, Stabler's leadership would help make the organization on of the most successful teams of the decade.