The Indianapolis Colts are a professional American football team based in Indianapolis, Indiana. They are members of the South Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The club … see full wiki
There have actually been three different incarnations of the Baltimore Colts. Due to transaction issues, it's in fact possible to find people who would argue that the first incarnation of the Colts is still playing today. That first team was formed in 1913 as the Dayton Triangles in Dayton, Ohio, as part of the Ohio League, a predecessor to the NFL which ran from 1903 to 1919. In 1918, the Triangles even won the Ohio League Championship. They folded in 1929 and were bought and put in Brooklyn, where they were renamed the Dodgers, only to change their name to the Tigers in 1944, merge with the Boston Yanks and become "The Yanks" due to the war, a change which was made permanent in 1945 when the AAFC founded another New York team called the Yankees. In 1949, the Yanks returned to New York City anyway and absorbed a large chunk of the Yankees' roster when the AAFC folded. In 1952, the Yanks moved to Dallas, turned into the Dallas Texans, and failed so badly, they were forced to become a permanent road team during the season before being dissolved for good once the season ended.
The second team was another AAFC team which began as the Miami Seahawks. In 1946, they were bought and moved to Baltimore, where they were renamed the Colts as a tribute to the city's long horse racing heritage. In 1947, wearing green and silver uniforms, the AAFC Baltimore Colts debuted and fought their way to a 2-11-1 record for the year. In 1948 they made a very notable draft pickup: Quarterback YA Tittle, who became one of the greatest players of his era. He took the Colts to a 7-8 record that year, which tied the Buffalo Bills for the division title, but went 1-11 in 1949, the final year of the AAFC. The Colts were part of the AAFC merger with the NFL, winning that right over the Buffalo Bills, who were the better team and therefore favored to stick around while the Colts disappeared. But the gamble proved to be a massive failure for the NFL, and the Colts were dissolved anyway after the 1950 season - partly because they sucked, and partly because they didn't have the money to go on.
Now, it's possible that you're now taking a cursory second glance at that first paragraph and wondering just what it has to do with anything, since I didn't mention either Baltimore or the Colts. Well, the AAFC Colts were the last football Baltimore saw for a couple of seasons. In December 1952, NFL commissioner Bert Bell told Charm City that if they wanted professional football back, they were going to have to meet his challenge: Sell 15,000 season tickets within six weeks. Baltimore stepped up, and in four weeks and three days, the quota was met. And so in 1953, the Dallas Texans were resurrected when they were sold to owner Carroll Rosenbloom who, in deference to both previous teams, kept the Colts name and the Texans colors. So when football season began in 1953, the team we currently recognize as the Indianapolis Colts stepped out for the first time.
In 1955, the ninth-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers was a quarterback out of Louisville whom the coach of the Steelers quickly dismissed as too dumb to be an NFL quarterback. He cut the quarterback, who played semipro football and worked in construction for the next year to make ends meet. In 1956 he was picked up by the Colts to back up their starter, George Shaw, and forced into action when Shaw broke his leg. His first pass was intercepted for a touchdown, his second play from the line of scrimmage was a botched handoff recovered by the other team, but he rebounded over the next two games to throw nine touchdown passes the rest of the season and set a rookie completion percentage record of 55.6 percent. The world had now met Johnny Unitas, who would go on to set records, introduce the two-minute drill, and define quarterbacking for the way we know it today.
In 1958, the Colts officially became NFL royalty when they beat the New York Giants with a stirring last-minute touchdown drive, followed by the first overtime game ever, in an NFL Championship which 45 million people saw on TV. The next season, they won their second Championship, again over the New York Giants. It's the first NFL Championship the Colts won, though, which is credited for the league's massive spike in popularity, one which resulted in the league beginnings its takeover as the country's most popular professional sports league. After winning their conference again in 1964 - but losing the NFL Championship to Cleveland - the Colts also partook in one of the other highly important games in NFL history in the 1968 season. They Colts fielded one of the most dominating teams ever that year, although Unitas spent most of it on the sideline due to injury. They went 13-1, allowing only 144 points against them while scoring 402 - second in the league - and in the title game, they stomped the Cleveland Browns 34-0. Cleveland was the one team that got the better of them during the season. The NFL Championship got them the right to play in the Super Bowl, which was only the third ever played and the first to actually be called the Super Bowl. For that, they were favored by an incredible spread of 18.
Part of their dominance came from using a defense called the zone defense which the rest of the NFL couldn't figure out. Unfortunately for them, AFL teams used them quite often, and so their strategic advantage was nullified against the New York Jets, who faced the zone often enough to know how to deal with it. Matt Snell ran, Joe Namath didn't screw it up, and the Jets defense went about their usual business in the biggest NFL upset ever. In 1970, the Colts joined the AFC as part of the merger, posted an 11-2-1 record, and won the AFC Championship. Super Bowl V is widely considered one of the worst, sloppiest Super Bowls ever played, but the Colts emerged victorious this time, against the Dallas Cowboys. 1972 was the final year Unitas played with Baltimore; he was traded to the San Diego Chargers after the season. He retired a year later, having been the first quarterback to surpass 40,000 career yards, along with 290 touchdowns and a bunch of records.
As to be expected, the Colts struggled early on without Unitas, their keystone. Marty Domres was the new guy for the Colts, or at least he was supposed to be. But after a 2-10 start in 1973, he was benched for a young gunner named Bert Jones, who got the starting job after winning the final two games that year. Jones actually proved to be quite a worthy replacement; he took the Colts to three consecutive division titles from 1975 to 1977, and was one of only three quarterbacks during the 70's to earn a quarterback rating of over 100. (The other two were Roger Staubach and Ken Stabler. Notice Unitas isn't one of them.) Jones made the Pro Bowl, a couple of All-Pro selections, and the MVP from AP, PFWA, and NEA. The reason we never heard of him is because the latter half of his career was riddled with injuries and so, unable to start, he was out of the league after 1982. He might have made the Hall of Fame himself if not for that; his career statistics, most of which came during his first few years, prove that he was certainly on track. Bill Belichick called him the best pure passer he ever saw. When Jones left, the Colts tanked, and they won nine games from 1980 to 1982. (1982 was shortened by a strike and the team went winless in the games that were played.) In 1983 the Colts drafted John Elway, who refused to play for them. Fearful of getting nothing for his rights, they quickly saved face by trading him to Denver.
1984. The year of unrest and discontent. Since 1969, the city of Baltimore had been looking for higher rental fees from Rosenbloom, who called Baltimore Memorial Stadium antiquated. He tried to get out of Baltimore several times over the decade for a few reasons: Fees, a feud with the press, and his wife's desire to live on the west coast. His gold buddy, Robert Irsay, bought the Los Angeles Rams, and they swapped teams so the Colts could stay. However, the stadium was too run down to ignore, and funding for repairs or a new one never went through. By 1979, Indianapolis was starting to make a serious push to reinvent itself, and what way to cities normally use to make "We're HERE!" shouts to the rest of the country? They do anything and everything in their power to bring an NFL team! In 1982 Indianapolis built the Hoosier Dome specifically to house the NFL team it didn't yet have, but secret negotiations soon began between Indianapolis and the Colts. Meanwhile, Baltimore kept voting down renovation money for the Colts. With a league expansion put on hold, in early 1984, Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon called the Colts and said it was time to bring negotiations between the Colts and Indianapolis to the next level, and the secret negotiations intensified. The team was impressed by the Hoosier Dome, while in Baltimore, the Maryland State Legislature finally stepped in. They passed legislation on March 27 that year allowing the city to seize the team on eminent domain charges. Robery Irsay said the move was a direct result of the legislation, and Colts counsel Michael Chernoff commented, "They not only threw down the gauntlet, but they put a gun to his head and cocked it and asked, 'Want to see if it's loaded?' They forced him to make a decision that day." Fearing the team would be seized early the next day, the Indianapolis Mayor called the chief executive officer of Mayflower Transit, who happened to be a friend of his. 15 Mayflower moving trucks drove up to the team's training complex at 2:00 AM the next day, and workers loaded all the team's belongings. Each truck took a slightly different route to Indianapolis in order to confuse the Maryland State Police, who could have been called at any time to stop the move. Each individual truck was escorted to the Hoosier Dome by Indiana State Troopers once they got to the Indiana state line. (And we thought the situation in Cleveland was bad.) The move triggered a lot of legal activity, which managed to reach the Supreme Court, and both houses of Congress filed bills to stop the move. Old former players for the Baltimore Colts, including Johnny Unitas, severed their ties to the team. The lawsuits and bills were eventually dismissed.
In Indy, the team struggled initially. They traded for Eric Dickerson in 1987, doing well with him that initial year, and were strictly middle-of-the-road in the early 90's, despite drafting Marshall Faulk. 1998 was Faulk's last season with the Colts, but the team drafted Peyton Manning, who set a million passing records and brought the team back to its former status as NFL royalty. In 2006 and 2009, Manning took them to the Super Bowl, winning in 2006. The Colts today are one of the league's biggest draws, in large part because Manning is one of the most gifted quarterbacks to ever play the position, and he's exciting to watch. He sat out 2011 due to neck surgery, though, and proved just how valuable he is to the team when they went 2-14. Although Manning has a few good years left, management is being stupid about him, and the Colts are on record saying they would like to draft Andrew Luck, the top quarterback in the draft, this year. I believe nothing good will come of this, and that it's a move calculated to keep luck away from the other teams in the league.
The Colts play in the AFC South for some reason I'll never understand. Half that division is new, and while the Colts have been dominating their division for the last decade, it isn't like they're getting a whole lot of quality competition from the new Jacksonville Jaguars or Houston Texans. Sometimes the Tennessee Titans have effectively antagonized Manning through the efforts of a stellar defense and quarterback Steve McNair, but they've been pretty sporadic. The biggest rival of the Colts is with the New England Patriots, because their quarterback, Tom Brady, is seen as Manning's biggest quarterbacking rival.
The Colts were the first team to feature cheerleaders and a marching band. They've also had a ton of Hall of Famers, mostly from the Baltimore days: Tittle, Unitas, Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore, John Mackey, and Art Donovan played for Baltimore. Richard Dent, Eric Dickerson, and Marshall Faulk are their Canton alumni from Indy. Weeb Ewbank and Don Shula have coached them. And while the Baltimore Ravens frequently defer to the city's football past, the Indianapolis Colts ARE Baltimore's football past, and so they've retired the numbers of Unitas, Buddy Young, Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, Jim Parker, Raymond Berry, and Gino Marchetti. You can bet that players from the Indianapolis era will be joining them one day.
Although the Colts aren't an original AFL team, they're royalty among the AFC teams. No matter where they play.