Indianapolis Colts History

Indianapolis Colts - Team History

Indianapolis Colts, 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 white.

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 dissolved.

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 crown.

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

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