professional football team and one of five teams in the Eastern Division
of the American Football Conference (AFC) of the National Football
League (NFL). Under the league’s realignment plan, which will take
affect in 2002, the Colts will play in the South Division of the AFC.
Formerly based in Baltimore, Maryland, the Colts now play at the RCA
Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana, and wear uniforms of royal blue and
Piloted by quarterbacks Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall, the Colts
captured four NFL championships from 1958 to 1971. (The Super Bowl was
not played until 1967, so only one of these championships was a Super
Bowl victory.) Unitas was one of several future Hall of Fame members who
played in the talented lineups of head coaches Weeb Ewbank and Don Shula.
The Colts earned three consecutive division titles during the mid-1970s
under head coach Ted Marchibroda. Defensive end John Dutton, quarterback
Bert Jones, and running back Lydell Mitchell starred on these teams.
Professional football in Maryland dates to 1947, when the Miami Seahawks
of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) moved to Baltimore and
became the Colts. In 1948 quarterback Y. A. Title won the league’s
passing championship as Baltimore tied for the Eastern Division crown. A
year later the AAFC folded and the Colts joined the NFL, but after two
consecutive seasons with 1-11 win-loss records, the franchise was
The Colts were reborn in 1953 when the NFL’s Dallas Texans moved to
Baltimore and took the name Colts. Owner and business executive Carroll
Rosenbloom promptly engineered the biggest trade in league history—a
deal that sent five Colts to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for ten
players, including defensive back Don Shula.
Following four seasons of rebuilding, the Colts captured consecutive NFL
titles in 1958 and 1959 under head coach Weeb Ewbank. Baltimore
assembled the league’s top offense both years, with teams starring four
future Hall of Fame members. The passing combination of Johnny Unitas to
receiver Raymond Berry became one of the most celebrated in league
history. Lenny Moore was one of the NFL’s most durable running backs,
and guard-tackle Jim Parker anchored a superb offensive line. Linemen
Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti, also future Hall of Fame members, led a
tenacious defense that held 16 of 26 opponents—including Baltimore’s two
championship game foes—to 21 or fewer points in 1958 and 1959.
Baltimore’s overtime defeat of the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL
Championship Game is regarded as one of the greatest NFL contests ever
played. A year later, the Colts again bested the Giants for the NFL
During the 1960s Baltimore remained a dominant power in the NFL as
Unitas continued to power the team. In 1960 he became the first NFL
quarterback to pass for more than 3,000 yards in one season. Shula
replaced Ewbank in 1963, becoming one of the youngest head coaches in
NFL history at age 33. Over the next seven seasons, he steered the Colts
to four first-place finishes in their division. In 1964 Baltimore
recorded a club-record 12 victories, and Unitas collected the second of
his three most valuable player (MVP) awards. Although they were favored
in the NFL Championship Game, the Colts lost to the Cleveland Browns.
The Colts enjoyed an outstanding season in 1968, winning 13 of 14 games.
Earl Morrall replaced the injured Unitas and produced an MVP season,
leading the league in passing while throwing for nearly 3,000 yards.
John Mackey, who was one of the first tight ends in professional
football to catch passes, combined with Morrall to lead a Colt team that
was heavily favored to win the Super Bowl. The NFL-champion Colts,
however, were upset by the American Football League (AFL) champions, the
New York Jets, who were led by quarterback Joe Namath.
Shula left Baltimore in 1970 to take over the Miami Dolphins. His
replacement, Dan McCafferty, put together the league’s most powerful
offense, and the team won the Eastern Division title. The Colts then
advanced to the Super Bowl, where they defeated the Dallas Cowboys on a
last-second field goal by rookie Jim O’Brien. Three years later, Unitas
was traded for the rights to select quarterback Bert Jones in the 1973
NFL draft. After Unitas’s departure, the Colts suffered two losing
seasons before returning to prominence in 1975 under head coach Ted
Marchibroda. A potent offense starring Jones, wide receiver Roger Carr,
and running back Lydell Mitchell powered Baltimore to three consecutive
Eastern Division crowns from 1975 to 1977. The Colts lost in the first
round of the playoffs each season.
After having endured seven straight losing seasons from 1978 to 1984,
and faced with dwindling fan support, the Colts moved to Indianapolis.
Led by running back Marshall Faulk and quarterback Jim Harbaugh, the
Colts reached the AFC Championship Game in 1995, but they lost to the
Pittsburgh Steelers. In 1999 wide receiver Marvin Harrison, running back
Edgerrin James, and quarterback Peyton Manning led the team to the
Eastern Division championship, but the Colts lost to the Tennessee
Titans in the playoffs.
1969 Super Bowl III Lost to New York Jets, 16-7
1971 Super Bowl V Defeated Dallas Cowboys, 16-13
NFL History Guide