Ken “Snake” Stabler, who led the Raiders to their first Super Bowl victory and won an NFL MVP award, died on Thursday at age 69. According to his family, the former quarterback succumbed to colon cancer, which he had been battling since February.

The Raiders released a statement about the passing of one of their greats, and they also provided comments from former Oakland coach John Madden:

“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.”
“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,” Madden said. “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 than 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.”

Stabler was an Alabama native who played for the Crimson Tide, helping the team to an 11-0 season and a Sugar Bowl win. In 1967, the quarterback authored one of the most memorable moments in the history of the Iron Bowl, when his “Run in the Mud” gave Alabama a 7-3 win over Auburn.

Stabler’s family said that “Sweet Home Alabama” was among the songs to which the former quarterback was listening when he passed away. He was drafted by the Raiders in the second round in 1968, but he had to wait five seasons — including a 1972 postseason appearance in which he led a comeback against the Steelers that was foiled by the “Immaculate Reception” — before taking the starting job away from Daryle Lamonica.

Finally given the reins by Madden in 1973, Stabler led Oakland to five straight AFC championship games. The team finally broke through in 1976, winning Super Bowl XI over the Vikings, and Stabler picked up the NFL Player of the Year award; two years before that, he had been named the AP’s NFL MVP. He finished his career with stints in Houston and New Orleans, retiring in 1984.

Renowned for being cool and cerebral on the field, Stabler was equally legendary for his off-field exploits, and his partying ways made him a perfect fit for the 1970s Raiders. As he wrote in his autobiography, “The monotony of [training] camp was so oppressive that without the diversions of whiskey and women, those of us who were wired for activity and no more than six hours sleep a night might have gone berserk.”

For a time on Thursday, there was some confusion about whether Stabler, had in fact, passed away. The Tuscaloosa News was the first to report his death, but it quickly retracted the story, claiming that it had been insufficiently sourced and prematurely published. Shortly thereafter, however, Stabler’s passing was confirmed.