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Thirty-five years ago this week, two AFC contenders swapped starting QBs

Houston Oilers v New York Jets

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Imagine a club making the conference-title game, then turning around and dealing away its starting quarterback a little more than two months later.

Thirty-five years ago Sunday, an NFL team made that call.

In one of those rare starting quarterback-for-starting quarterback swaps, the Houston Oilers traded Dan Pastorini to the Oakland Raiders for Ken Stabler on March 15, 1980.

Both quarterbacks had a good deal of tenure with their respective clubs. Pastorini, then 30, was a nine-season starter for Houston, while Stabler, 34, had started the last seven seasons for Oakland. The Oilers had made the AFC title game in 1978 and 1979 before falling to Pittsburgh, while the Raiders won Super Bowl XI in 1976 with Stabler at quarterback.

However, Pastorini, a Northern California native, had reportedly hoped to play on the West Coast, while Stabler’s relationship with Raiders owner Al Davis had its ups-and-downs.

Ultimately, though, the Stabler-Pastorini deal didn’t work as intended for either club.

Stabler would start the next two seasons for the Oilers, who never did get over the hump in the AFC. Stabler would move on to New Orleans for the final three years of his career, serving as the starter in 1982 and 1983.

Pastorini, meanwhile, would begin the 1980 season as the Raiders’ starter, but he suffered a broken leg in the club’s fifth game. Jim Plunkett relieved Pastorini, and the Raiders would go on to capture Super Bowl XV. En route to the title, they knocked off the Oilers in the wild-card round, a game in which Houston’s Stabler was picked twice, including once for a touchdown.

After being released by the Raiders, Pastorini had one more stint as a starter, taking over for the Rams’ Pat Haden in 1981. However, Pastorini struggled, throwing 14 interceptions and just two touchdowns in seven games. He finished his career with Philadelphia in 1983.

As trades go . . . well, this one was a little more exciting at the start than at the finish