Indianapolis Colts Franchise Recap | Indianapolis Colts - colts.com

Go back through the years to learn all the history of the Indianapolis Colts franchise.
Colts History
Feb 27, 2020
Photographs By Jonathan Daniel

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 to 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.

1950s

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.

Don Shula and Weeb Ewbank
Don Shula and Weeb Ewbank

In 1954, the Colts hired Weeb Ewbank as head coach. Ewbank guided the Colts for 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 after defeating the Giants, 31-16, in Baltimore for the NFL Championship.

1960s

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 11 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.

Tom Matte and Lenny Moore
Tom Matte and Lenny Moore

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.

1968 Western Conference Championship Game
1968 Western Conference Championship Game

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.

1970s

As members of the AFC Eastern Division, the Colts won their first AFC game, 16-14, over San Diego on September 20, 1970. 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.

Tom Nowatzke and Robert Irsay
Tom Nowatzke and Robert Irsay

In July of 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-plus yard season, 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 of 1975. Marchibroda led the Colts to three consecutive division titles before posting consecutive 5-11 seasons in 1978 and 1979.

1980s

Mike McCormack replaced Marchibroda as head coach in January of 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 cancellation of seven games, and the NFL played a nine-game schedule. The Colts finished with a record of 0-8-1. Baltimore 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 first-round pick in 1984.

Chris Hinton
Chris Hinton

In 1983, the Colts finished 7-9, forging the biggest turnaround in NFL history for a team that had gone winless in the previous season. Hinton started at right guard 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.

Professional football came to Indianapolis on March 28, 1984, when Robert Irsay moved the historic NFL franchise from Baltimore to Indianapolis.

Following the 1984 season, 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 yards per carry 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.

RB-Eric Dickerson, acquired in a blockbuster trade on October 31, 1987, won the NFL rushing title in 1988 with 1,659 yards.

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.

Eric Dickerson
Eric Dickerson

1990s

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.

1995 AFC Championship Game
1995 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.

Peyton Manning drafted #1 overall
Peyton Manning drafted #1 overall

At 13-3 in 1999, the Colts produced a then-NFL record 10-game one-season turnaround. The club won 11 straight games, tying then the franchise record achieved in 1964 and 1975-76. 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.

Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James
Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James

2000s

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-plus-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-plus passing yards seasons, while Harrison set the NFL seasonal record with 143 receptions and became the only NFL player with 100-plus receptions in four consecutive seasons.

Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison
Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison

In 2003, the Colts were 12-4, won the AFC South and advanced to the AFC Championship Game, falling at New England, 24-14. K-Mike Vanderjagt set a then NFL record with 41 consecutive field goals made, 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 (since broken). The Colts topped Denver, 49-24, in the Wild Card Playoffs before losing at New England, 20-3.

In 2005, Dungy directed the Colts to a 14-2 record, which set the franchise record for seasonal wins. The club became then only the fourth in NFL history to earn a 13-0 start. The Colts fell in the Divisional Playoffs to Pittsburgh, 21-18. Dungy topped 100 career victories, while the Colts passed 400 wins in franchise history.

In 2006, the Colts were 12-4 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).

Tony Dungy winning Super Bowl XLI
Tony Dungy winning Super Bowl XLI

In 2007, the Colts were 13-3, won a club-record fifth straight division title and became the first NFL team with five consecutive seasons with 12-plus 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-plus-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-plus 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-plus victories and six years 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 NFL 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.

2010s

The Colts were 10-6 in 2010, won the AFC South and tied the NFL mark with a ninth consecutive playoff appearance (Dallas, 1975-83). It was the club's ninth straight season with 10-plus victories. The club fell in the Wild Card Playoffs to the New York Jets, 17-16.

Following a 2-14 campaign in 2011, Vice Chairman Bill Polian, Vice President & General Manager Chris Polian and Head Coach Jim Caldwell were all relieved of their duties. Jim Irsay and the organization hired Ryan Grigson to serve as the team's new general manager and Chuck Pagano as the team's new head coach.

The 2012 Colts faced one of the most unique years in franchise history. The team quickly experienced adversity when their head coach, Chuck Pagano, was diagnosed with a curable form of leukemia four weeks into the season. The Colts rallied around their ailing head coach and the "CHUCKSTRONG" campaign en route to accomplishing one of their main goals – extending the season for Pagano's return. Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians guided the team to a 9-3 record in Pagano's absence and clinched a playoff berth with the team's 20-13 victory at Kansas City. In the regular season finale, Pagano returned for the first time since his absence and capitalized on the team's goal, defeating the Houston Texans. Indianapolis fell short in an AFC Wild Card Playoff meeting at Baltimore, who won the ensuing Super Bowl. Although it was a difficult end to the season, the year was filled with highlights. The Colts finished with an 11-5 regular season record and tied the third-largest one-year turnaround in NFL history. Pagano and Arians earned dual Coach of the Year honors from several media outlets while Grigson was named the Executive of the Year from PFW/PFWA and The Sporting News. Three players represented the Colts in the Pro Bowl, including Luck, Mathis and Wayne. In his rookie season, Luck led the Colts to the most wins by a No. 1 overall draft pick in NFL history while setting records for the most passing yards (4,374), attempts (627) and 300-yard passing games (six) by a rookie in NFL history.

Indianapolis concluded the 2013 campaign with an 11-5 regular season record, while earning its first AFC South Division title since 2010. The team also won its first playoff game since 2009 after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC Wild Card meeting, 45-44, which was the second-largest comeback in NFL postseason history. The Colts tallied a perfect 6-0 division record and became the first NFL team to finish a season with the least amount of turnovers (14) and penalties (66) since 2002. Three players including Mathis, Luck and LS-Matt Overton were named to the Pro Bowl. Mathis led the NFL and set a career-high with 19.5 sacks, earning the inaugural Deacon Jones Award. He also became the franchise all-time sack leader (111.0) en route to Associated Press First Team NFL All-Pro honors.

Robert Mathis
Robert Mathis

The Colts finished the 2014 campaign with an 11-5 regular season record, while earning their second consecutive AFC South Division title. The team also won two postseason contests and made it back to the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2009. Indianapolis notched its third consecutive 11-win season in 2014, which made Pagano only the second head coach in NFL history to earn 11 wins in each of his first three seasons with a team. The Colts recorded a perfect 6-0 division record for the second straight year, marking the first time in franchise history they've accomplished the feat in back-to-back seasons. They also claimed their ninth AFC South title since 2002, which is the second-most division titles of any NFL team during that span. Seven Colts players earned Pro Bowl honors in 2014, including S-Mike Adams, CB-Vontae Davis, Hilton, ILB-D'Qwell Jackson, Luck, P-Pat McAfee and Vinatieri. McAfee and Vinatieri also earned Associated Press First Team NFL All-Pro accolades.

Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck

In 2015, the Colts finished with an 8-8 record and a winning record in the AFC South Division for the fourth consecutive year. Following a Week 5 victory against the Houston Texans, Indianapolis set an NFL record for the most consecutive wins against a division opponent with 16. QB-Matt Hasselbeck finished with a 5-3 record as a starter, filling in for an injured Andrew Luck. RB-Frank Gore logged the team's highest rushing total dating back to 2007 with 967 yards and Indianapolis' defense finished with five touchdowns, which tied the franchise record for the most in a season (1975 and 1994). The team featured three Pro Bowlers, including Adams, Davis and Hilton who all made their second consecutive appearances. The season was highlighted with a victory against the undefeated and eventual Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos in a Week 9 contest at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis' defense limited the Broncos to 35 rushing yards while the Colts offense compiled one of its most impressive offensive performances of the year with 365 net yards.

The Colts finished with an 8-8 record in 2016 and missed the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 1997-98. Hilton led the NFL in receiving yards (1,448) and Gore recorded the team's first 1,000-yard rushing season dating back to 2007 (1,025). Gore also posted two 100-yard rushing contests, which were the first for the Colts since 2012. OLB Erik Walden ranked tied for eighth in the league with a career-high 8.0 sacks. On special teams, Vinatieri set a new NFL record for consecutive field goals made with 44 dating back to the 2015 season and McAfee led the league in punting average (49.3). Mathis concluded his 14-year career for Indianapolis. He finished first in franchise history in sacks (123.0) and sacks in a season (19.5 in 2013) and holds the NFL record for career sack-forced fumbles (47). Hilton and McAfee were both selected to the Pro Bowl. Gore was the recipient of the 2016 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. Following the season, the Colts hired Chris Ballard as the team's new general manager.

Frank Gore
Frank Gore

In 2017, the Colts finished 4-12 and battled injuries throughout the season as 27 players were placed on the team's Injured Reserve List. With Andrew Luck missing the season due to injury, the team turned to second-year QB-Jacoby Brissett, who was acquired via trade with the New England Patriots. Brissett threw for 3,098 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Gore finished with 1,206 yards from scrimmage to extend his NFL record to 12 consecutive seasons with at least 1,200-plus scrimmage yards. Gore also became the fifth all-time leading rusher in NFL history. TE-Jack Doyle had a career year with 80 receptions for 690 yards and four touchdowns en route to his first career Pro Bowl. His reception total ranked as the second-most in franchise single-season history among tight ends. Hilton compiled 966 yards and four touchdowns as he was selected to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl. Defensively, second-year ILB-Antonio Morrison led the team with 108 tackles while OLB-Jabaal Sheard paced the team with 5.5 sacks. On special teams, Vinatieri finished with 109 points. It marked the 20th time he eclipsed 100-plus points in a season which extended his league record. P-Rigoberto Sanchez ranked fourth in net punting average (42.6) and was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team. Following the season, the team parted ways with Pagano and hired Frank Reich to serve as the team's new head coach.

Frank Reich hired as Colts head coach
Frank Reich hired as Colts head coach

In 2018, the Colts became the third team in NFL history to start a season 1-5 and make the playoffs, finishing the year 10-6. Indianapolis defeated the Houston Texans in an AFC Wild Card Playoff contest before falling to the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC Divisional Playoff matchup the following week. It was the team's first appearance in the playoffs dating back to 2014. Luck started all 16 games after missing the 2017 season and threw for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns. He was voted the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year and was named to the Pro Bowl. Hilton logged his fifth career 1,000-yard receiving season and TE-Eric Ebron caught 13 touchdowns which led all tight ends in the league. Ebron was named to his first career Pro Bowl. RB-Marlon Mack led the team in rushing with 908 yards while adding 10 total touchdowns. The Colts offensive line ranked first in the NFL with the fewest sacks allowed. The unit was led by rookie C/G-Quenton Nelson who was selected to the Pro Bowl and was named a First Team All-Pro. Defensively, rookie LB-Darius Leonard led the league in tackles with 163 while contributing with 7.0 sacks, 12.0 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions and eight passes defensed. He was named a First Team All-Pro and was voted as the NFL Rookie Defensive Player of the Year. DT/DE-Denico Autry led the team with 9.0 sacks and CB-Kenny Moore II led the Colts with three interceptions. Vinatieri totaled 113 points and became the NFL's all-time leading point scorer. Reich was named the AFC Coach of the Year by the NFL 101 Committee and Ballard was named the Executive of the Year by the PFWA.

T.Y. Hilton
T.Y. Hilton

In 2019, the Colts finished with a 7-9 record. For the second consecutive year, C/G-Quenton Nelson (first team) and LB-Darius Leonard (second team) were selected to the Associated Press NFL All-Pro Team. Nelson, Leonard and C-Ryan Kelly were all selected to the Pro Bowl as well. Following Andrew Luck's retirement in August, QB-Jacoby Brissett started 15 games and threw for 2,942 yards and 18 touchdowns for an 88.0 passer rating. RB-Marlon Mack contributed with his first 1,000-yard rushing season and WRs-T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal each recorded five touchdown receptions. Defensively, LB-Anthony Walker led the team in tackles with 123 while free agent signee DE-Justin Houston paced the team in sacks with 11.0.

Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard
Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard

In 67 years of National Football League competition, the Colts have achieved a 546-492-7 record, including four world championships and 21 conference or division titles.

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