History Highlights

A look at the history of the Indianapolis Colts

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Professional football came to Indianapolis March 28, 1984, when Colts Owner Robert Irsay moved the historic NFL franchise from Baltimore to Indianapolis - the friendly heart of the midwest.

The roots of the franchise go back to December 28, 1946, when the bankrupt Miami Seahawks of the All-America Football Conference were purchased and relocated in Baltimore by a group headed by Bob Rodenberg. As the result of a contest in Baltimore, won by Charles Evans of Middle River, Md., the team was renamed the "Colts." On September 7, 1947, wearing green and silver uniforms, the Colts, under Head Coach Cecil Isbell, won their initial AAFC game, 16-7, over the Brooklyn Dodgers. The team concluded its inaugural season before a record Baltimore crowd of 51,583 by losing to the New York Yankees, 21-7. The Colts finished with a 2-11-1 record, good for a fourth place finish in the Eastern Division. The Colts completed the 1948 season with a 7-8 record, tying the Buffalo Bills for the division title. The Colts compiled a 1-11 mark in 1949.

The AAFC and NFL merged in 1950, and the Colts joined the NFL. After posting a 1-11 record for the second consecutive year, the franchise was dissolved by the league on January 18, 1951, because of its failing financial condition.

After two seasons without professional football, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell challenged the franchise in December of 1952 to sell 15,000 season tickets within six weeks in order to re-enter the NFL. That 15,000-ticket quota was reached in four weeks and three days. On January 23, 1953, under the principal ownership of Carroll Rosenbloom, the NFL's Dallas Texans franchise was moved to Baltimore where, keeping the "Colts" nickname, the Texans team colors of blue and white were inherited.

Before their first NFL season, the "new" Baltimore Colts engineered one of the biggest trades in sports history. In a deal with Cleveland involving 15 players, Baltimore received 10 Browns in exchange for five Colts. Among the players traded to Baltimore were Don Shula, Bert Rechichar, Carl Taseff and Art Spinney. These players helped the Colts open 1953 with a 13-9 upset of Chicago in a game where Rechichar booted a then-NFL record 56-yard field goal. In 1954, the Colts hired Weeb Ewbank as head coach. Ewbank guided the Colts for the nine seasons (the longest tenure of any Colts head coach) and won two conference and NFL championships. On November 30, 1958, the Colts clinched their first Western Conference title with a 35-27 win over San Francisco before a record home sellout crowd of 57,557. Four weeks later, Baltimore won its first NFL title, downing the New York Giants, 23-17, in the fabled "sudden-death" overtime contest at Yankee Stadium. The Colts repeated as champion in 1959, clinching their second conference crown and defeating the Giants, 31-16, in Baltimore for the NFL Championship.

In 1963, Shula replaced Ewbank as the team's third head coach since 1953. During 1963, QB- John Unitas led the Colts offense to eight team records and set a then-NFL seasonal mark of 237 completions. The Colts won a then club-record eleven consecutive games in 1964, en route to clinching their third conference title. That season, WR-Raymond Berry caught his 506th career pass and RB-Lenny Moore scored 20 touchdowns, then both NFL records. In 1965, Baltimore tied Green Bay for the conference title. With HB-Tom Matte quarterbacking the club because of injuries to Unitas and Gary Cuozzo, the Colts lost a controversial 13-10 "sudden-death" playoff contest to the Packers. Under Shula, Baltimore made its first Super Bowl appearance in 1968. The club won the Coastal Division with a 13-1 mark, then defeated Minnesota, 24-14, in the Western Conference Championship game and blanked Cleveland, 34-0, for the NFL Championship. The team faced the American Football League Champion New York Jets in Super Bowl III, losing a 16-7 upset.

In May of 1969, the NFL merged with the AFL and Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland joined the old AFL teams to form the American Football Conference of the NFL. As members of the AFC Eastern Division, the Colts won their first AFC game, 16-14, over San Diego on September 20. After clinching the division title, the Colts topped Cincinnati, 17-0, and Oakland, 27-17, to win the AFC Championship. On January 17, 1971, the Colts defeated Dallas in Super Bowl V, 16-13, on K-Jim O'Brien's 32-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in the game.

In July, 1972, the Colts came under new ownership as Robert Irsay acquired the club from Rosenbloom in exchange for the Los Angeles Rams. In 1974, two Colts set NFL records as RB-Lydell Mitchell rushed 40 times at the New York Jets and QB-Bert Jones completed 17 consecutive passes versus the Jets. Mitchell led the NFL with 72 receptions. In 1975, Mitchell became the first Colts player with a 1,000+ season by gaining 1,193 yards on 289 rushes. After a 2-12 record in 1974, Baltimore's fortunes changed with the hiring of Ted Marchibroda as head coach in February, 1975. Marchibroda led the Colts to three consecutive division titles before posting consecutive 5-11 seasons in 1978 and 1979. Mike McCormack replaced Marchibroda as head coach in January, 1980. The Colts improved to 7-9 in 1980 before recording a 2-14 mark in 1981. On December 21, 1981, Frank Kush succeeded McCormack as head coach. After two weeks of action in 1982, a players' strike resulted in the loss of seven games, and the NFL played a nine-game schedule. The Colts finished with a record of 0-8-1. The Colts received the first pick of the 1983 NFL Draft and selected QB-John Elway. Six days later, the Colts traded Elway to Denver for OT-Chris Hinton, QB- Mark Herrmann and its D1-84 pick. In 1983, the Colts finished 7-9, forging the biggest turnaround in NFL history for a team that had gone winless the previous season. Hinton started at RG in the Pro Bowl. RBs-Curtis Dickey and Randy McMillan combined for nearly 2,000 rushing yards as the club led the AFC and ranked second in the NFL.

Following the 1984 season, President Robert Irsay and General Manager Jim Irsay appointed Rod Dowhower as head coach on January 28, 1985. Indianapolis earned a 5-11 mark with a club that rushed for a conference-leading 2,439 yards, fifth-best in the NFL. The team's 5.0 rushing average marked the first time in a decade an AFC team achieved that feat. On December 1, 1986, Ron Meyer succeeded Dowhower as head coach. Meyer led the club to the division title in 1987, before falling in the divisional round at Cleveland, 38-21. Indianapolis earned a 9-7 record in 1988 and an 8-8 mark in 1989, but lost playoff positions on the last weekend of each season. RB-Eric Dickerson, acquired in a blockbuster trade on October 31, 1987, won the NFL rushing title in 1988 with 1,659 yards. The Colts were 7-9 in 1990. Meyer earned a 36-35 regular-season record before being succeeded by Rick Venturi on October 1, 1991. Marchibroda returned as head coach on January 28, 1992. He led the Colts to a 9-7 record in 1992, the second time he guided the team to a then NFL-best eight-game one-season turnaround. The Colts posted a 4-12 record in 1993 and an 8-8 mark in 1994. The 1995 Colts earned a 9-7 record and gained playoff wins at San Diego and Kansas City before falling, 20-16, at Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game. Marchibroda's tenure ended on February 9, 1996. His 73 career victories tied Shula for most in Colts history. Lindy Infante became head coach on February 15, 1996. The Colts were 9-7 in 1996, reaching the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1975-77.

Jim Irsay became Owner and Chief Executive Officer in 1997, and Bill Polian was named president on December 22, 1997, one day after the club finished a 3-13 season. Jim Mora succeeded Infante as head coach on January 12, 1998. The Colts were 3-13 in 1998. RB-Marshall Faulk's 2,227 scrimmage yards set a club seasonal mark, while QB-Peyton Manning (326-575-3,739, 26 TDs) set NFL rookie records in every passing category. At 13-3 in 1999, the Colts produced an NFL-record 10-game one-season turnaround. The club won eleven straight games, tying then the franchise record achieved in 1964 and 1975-76. In winning the division title, Manning, RB-Edgerrin James and WR-Marvin Harrison earned Pro Bowl honors, while K-Mike Vanderjagt won the NFL scoring title. The club earned its first playoff game in Indianapolis, but fell to Tennessee, 19-16. The Colts were 10-6 in 2000, but lost in overtime at Miami, 23-17, in the Wild Card round. The back-to-back 10+-victory seasons were a first for the club since 1976-77. Manning (4,413) and James (1,709, 2,303) won the NFL passing, rushing and scrimmage yards titles. The Colts were 6-10 in 2001, but Manning (4,131) and Harrison (109) had outstanding yardage and reception seasons.

Tony Dungy succeeded Mora as head coach on January 22, 2002. In 2002, Dungy led the Colts to a 10-6 record before losing in the Wild Card round at the New York Jets, 41-0. Manning became the first NFL player with four consecutive 4,000+ seasons, while Harrison set the NFL seasonal record with 143 receptions and became the only NFL player with 100+ receptions in four consecutive seasons.

In 2003, the Colts were 12-4, won the AFC South and advanced to the AFC Championship Game, falling at New England, 24-14. Manning produced his fifth consecutive 4,000+ season, while Vanderjagt set an NFL record with 41 consecutive field goals, including all 37 attempts in 2003. Dungy led the Colts to a 12-4 mark and the AFC South title in 2004. Manning set NFL seasonal records with 49 touchdown passes (since broken) and a 121.1 rating, while the club set seasonal-bests with 522 points and 6,475 net yards. The Colts topped Denver, 49-24, in the Wild Card round before losing at New England, 20-3. In 2005, Dungy directed the Colts to a 14-2 record, then the franchise record for seasonal wins. The club became then only the fourth in NFL history to earn a 13-0 start. The club fell in the Divisional Playoffs to Pittsburgh, 21-18. Dungy earned his 100th career and 100th regular season victories in 2005, while the Colts passed 400 wins in franchise history. In 2006, the Colts posted a 12-4 record and captured the fourth world championship in franchise history with a 29-17 win over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI in Miami Gardens, Fla. The club defeated Chicago after besting three prior playoffs foes, Kansas City (23-8), Baltimore (15-6) and New England (38-34). In 2007, the Colts finished 13-3, winning a club-record fifth straight division title and becoming the first NFL team with five consecutive seasons with 12+ victories. The club fell in the Divisional Playoffs to San Diego, 28-24. In 2008, the Colts were 12-4, extending their league mark with six consecutive 12+-victory seasons. The club became the first in NFL history to win at least seven consecutive games in five consecutive seasons. Manning won his third AP NFL MVP award. Indianapolis fell in the Wild Card Playoffs in overtime at San Diego, 23-17. Jim Caldwell succeeded Dungy as head coach on January 12, 2009. Dungy finished as the only coach in Colts history to post 10+ wins and earn playoff appearances in seven straight seasons. In 2009, the club was 14-2 and became only the third team to start a season 14-0. The club extended its records to seven consecutive seasons with 12+ victories and with a winning streak exceeding seven games. Caldwell tied the rookie mark for seasonal victories by an NFL head coach, and he earned the most consecutive wins to open a season and a career by a first-year head coach. Manning won an unprecedented fourth AP MVP honor. The club set league marks for most consecutive regular-season wins (23, 2008-09) and most regular-season decade wins (115, 2000-09). Indianapolis defeated Baltimore, 20-3, and the New York Jets, 30-17, before falling to New Orleans, 31-17, in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami Gardens, Fla.

In 57 years of National Football League competition, the Colts have achieved a 460-409-7 record, including four World Championships and 18 Conference or Divisional titles.