American Football Database

The Indianapolis Colts are a professional football team based in Indianapolis, Indiana. They play in the AFC South division of the National Football League. They have won 2 NFL championships and 2 Super Bowls.

The team began play in 1953 as the Baltimore Colts. A previous Baltimore Colts team played between 1947 and 1950. The original Colts team began play in 1946 as the Miami Seahawks, a member of the upstart All-America Football Conference. They relocated to Baltimore as the Colts in 1947, and joined the NFL in 1950 after the AAFC merged into the older league. However, the franchise folded after one NFL season. After fans in Baltimore protested, the NFL formed another Colts team out of the ashes of the failed Dallas Texans for the 1953 season. While in Baltimore, the club won four NFL Championships, including Super Bowl V.

Franchise history

The Colts were the first NFL team to have cheerleaders, and a marching band.[1] The Colts franchise was officially created in 1953, but can trace its history much earlier than that, to before the NFL actually began: its earliest predecessor was the Dayton Triangles, a founding member of the NFL that was originally created in 1913. That team went through the following changes:

  • Dayton Triangles relocated and renamed Brooklyn Dodgers in 1930.
  • Changed name to Brooklyn Tigers in 1944. In the same year, the Boston Yanks are founded.
  • Merged with Boston Yanks in 1945 as the wartime "The Yanks."
  • Franchise canceled in 1945 by league and the team's temporary merger with the Boston Yanks is made permanent, as a parallel team (AAFC New York Yankees) is founded by the Tigers' former owner, Dan Topping.
  • Miami Seahawks of the AAFC are purchased and relocated to Baltimore and renamed the Colts (Originally wearing Green and Silver). This franchise was dissolved by the league on January 18, 1951.
  • Boston Yanks move to New York in 1949 and become New York Yanks, absorbing much of the Yankees' roster the next year.
  • New York Yanks move to Dallas in 1952 as Dallas Texans.
  • Texans become a road team halfway through the 1952 season and are dissolved shortly thereafter.
  • Dallas Texans franchise was moved to Baltimore on January 23, 1953 where, resurrecting the “Colts” nickname, they kept the Texans team colors of blue and white.

The AAFC Baltimore Colts

On December 28, 1946, 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 the 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. Y. A. Tittle was the Colts starting quarterback.

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. But many Baltimore fans protested the loss of their team and continued to support the marching band (the second in professional football, after that of the Washington Redskins) and fan club, both of which remained in operation and worked for the team's revival.

NFL Dallas Texans

After two seasons without professional football, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell challenged Baltimore in December 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. This is the franchise that exists today in Indianapolis.[2]

The Texans had a long and winding history; they started as the Boston Yanks in 1944 and merged with the Brooklyn Tigers (previously known as the Dayton Triangles, an original NFL team established in the 1910s) for the 1945 season before moving to New York as the Bulldogs in 1949. The team then became the Yanks in 1950, and many of the players from the New York Yankees of the All-America Football Conference were added to the team. The Yanks moved to Dallas after the 1951 season, but played their final two "home" games of the 1952 season at the Rubber Bowl in Akron, Ohio.

NFL Baltimore Colts

Although debatable from an historical perspective, neither the Colts franchise or the National Football League consider the Triangles/Dodgers/Tigers/Seahawks/Yanks/Bulldogs/Yankees/Texans teams as part of the modern Colts franchise.

1953 season

The Colts began the season with a blockbuster trade, swapping five Baltimore players for 10 Cleveland Browns. Among the players who came over were future coach Don Shula; Bert Rechichar, Carl Taseff and Art Spinney, among others. The 2nd incarnation of the Baltimore Colts first took the field at Memorial Stadium on September 27, with Coach Keith Molesworth. The Colts would stun the Bears that day 13-9 to get the new franchise off on the right foot. However, the Colts struggled to a 3-9 season in their inaugural year.[3]

1954 season

The young Colts continued to struggle in their first season under Coach Weeb Ewbank, duplicating their 3-9 inaugural season record.[3]

1955 season

The team got off to a 3-0 start. However, the team would only win 2 more games the rest of the season finishing with a 5-6-1 record.[3]

1956 season

QB George Shaw was lost to injury in the 4th game of the season. The backup named Johnny Unitas took his place. The Colts split the 8 remaining games to finish with a 5-7 record.[3]

1957 season

Johnny Unitas' first full season as starting QB, the Colts began with a 3-0 start. After losing 3 in a row, then winning 4 in a row, the Colts at 7-3 would lose their final 2 games of the season and finish 7-5.[3]

1958 season

Winning their first 6 games; on the way to a 9-1 start the Colts won the Western Division Title. However the Colts lost their final 2 games of the season.[3]

NFL Championship Game

On December 28 Baltimore faced the New York Giants in the NFL Championship game at Yankee Stadium. The Colts went to halftime with a 14-3 lead after scoring 2 TDs in the 2nd Quarter. The 4th Quarter would end tied at 17, meaning the NFL would have to use overtime for the first time ever. The rule was simple; the first team to score would be victorious. Unitas hit WR Raymond Berry with a clutch pass that gave the Colts a 1st down in Giants territory. The Colts continued to drive down to the 1-yard line, with first and goal. Unitas handed off to Alan Ameche who dove across the goal line to give Baltimore a 23-17 win, in what many call the greatest game ever played.[4][5] The game would serve as a launching point for the NFL's remarkable boom in popularity.[3]

1959 season

The Colts use a season ending 5-game winning streak to win their 2nd straight Western Division Championship with a 9-3 record.[3]

NFL Championship Game

Baltimore had a Championship Game rematch with New York Giants, with the game this time being played at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. For the first 3 quarters the Colts fell behind 9-7. Johnny Unitas led the Colts back in the 4th Quarter scoring 24 unanswered points, and Baltimore to claim their 2nd straight NFL Championship with a 31-16 victory.[3]

1960 season

The Colts were a strong contender for the Western Division Title again with a 6-2 start. However, the Colts would drop their final 4 games as their season ended with a disappointing 6-6- record.[3]

1961 season

The Colts finished with an 8-6 record.[3]

1962 season

The Colts struggled finishing with a 7-7 record. Following the season the Colts fired Coach Weeb Ewbank, who shortly thereafter, would be hired to coach the New York Jets of the AFL. Ewbank was replaced by Don Shula who had played with Colts in their inaugural season of 1953.[3]

1963 season

The Colts struggled early in their first season under Coach Don Shula. However they would end the season strong by winning their final 3 games to finish with an 8-6 record.[3]

1964 season

After losing the first game of the season to the Vikings the Colts went on a 10-game winning streak on the way to winning the Western Division Championship with a 12-2 record. Johnny Unitas wins the NFL MVP after amassing 2,824 yards passing.[3]

NFL Championship Game

The Colts faced the Cleveland Browns. However, nothing would go right in Cleveland as the Colts were shut-out 27-0.[3]

1965 season

The Colts appear to be a strong contender for the Western Division Championship again. However injuries to QB Johnny Unitas and back up Gary Cuzzo, forced the Colts to turn to Tom Matte in a must win season ending game in Los Angeles against the Rams. Wearing a plastic wrist brace that carried the team's list of plays, Matte led Baltimore to a 20-17 victory that gave the Colts a share of the Western Division Title at 10-3-1 with the Green Bay Packers. The Colts and Packers would battle into overtime with the game tied at 10. However, there was no magic for the Colts this time as the Packers won the game on a FG a little over a minute into the 2nd overtime period.[3]

1966 season

The Colts finished 9-5.[3]

1967 season

Led by Johnny Unitas who wins the NFL MVP with 3,428 yards passing the Colts tear through the NFL going undefeated through the first 13 games of the season with a record of 11-0-2. However, the Colts still needed to beat the Rams in Los Angeles to claim the Coastal Division Championship. Unfortunately for the Colts the Rams would win the game 34-10 to win the Division title and advance to the postseason, as the Colts went home despite an 11-1-2 record.[3]

1968 season

Johnny Unitas misses most of the season with an elbow injury. The Colts backup QB Earl Morrall steps in and wins the NFL MVP award, while leading the Colts on a record breaking 13-1 season. While Morrall led the offense, the Colts defense shut out 3 opponents while allowing a record low 144 points. In the Divisional Playoff round the Colts beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-14 before a sold out crowd at Memorial Stadium.[3]

Super Bowl III

Going into Super Bowl III the Colts were favored by 18 points. They faced the New York Jets who were coached by their former head coach Weeb Ewbank. The Jets came in confident as QB Joe Namath guaranteed a victory. The first half was a defense struggle as the Jets had a 16-0 lead early in the 4th Quarter. Desperate to make a comeback the Colts put Johnny Unitas into the game, and he would get the Colts on the board with a long touchdown drive. With less than 4 minutes the Colts recovered an on side kick to keep their hopes alive. However, the Jets completed the biggest upset in NFL history 16-7.[3]

1969 season

Still suffering from a Super Bowl hangover the Colts stumble out of the gates losing their first 2 games. The Colts struggled to finish with an 8-5-1 record. Following the season Coach Don Shula who fell out of favor with owner Carroll Rosenbloom was allowed to resign and he took the coaching job with Miami Dolphins. Assistant Coach Don McCafferty would replace Shula.[3]

1970 season

Prior to the 1970 season, Rosenbloom, Art Modell of the Browns, and Art Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to have their teams join the ten AFL teams in the AFC as part of the AFL-NFL merger giving each conference an equal amount of teams, and divisions. The Colts win the Eastern Division while posting an 11-2-1 record. During the season the Colts would get revenge for Super Bowl III, by beating the New York Jets, who are now a division rival. In the Divisional Playoffs the Colts defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 17-0 before a raucous crowd at Memorial Stadium. The Colts then defeated the Raiders 27-17 to advance to the Super Bowl.[3]

Super Bowl V

Baltimore returned to the Super Bowl and their opponents were the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys jumped out to a 6-0 lead on 2 FGs before the Colts tied it on a 75-yard pass from Johnny Unitas to John Mackey. However the Colts had the PAT blocked and the game remained tied. The Cowboys would jump out in front again and went into the 4th Quarter holding a 13-6 lead into halftime. Earl Morrall relieved an injured Unitas in the 2nd half the game as the two teams kept fumbling the ball back-and-forth in a game that got the nickname blunder bowl as both teams combined had 11 turnovers. The Colts would tie the game midway through the final period on a 2-yard plunge by RB Tom Nowatzke. With less than 2 minutes left Cowboys RB Dan Reeves fumbled the ball setting up the Colts in Dallas territory. Baltimore would win the game on a 32-yard FG from Jim O'Brien with 5 seconds left.[3]

1971 season

The Colts settled for the Wild Card after finishing the season at 10-4. In the Divisional Round the Colts would defeat the Browns in Cleveland 20-3 to advance to the AFC Championship Game. The Dolphins coached by Don Shula shut out the Colts 21-0 ending the Colts hopes for a 2nd straight Super Bowl.[3]

1972 season

The Colts got off to a 1-4 start and Coach Don McCafferty was fired. The Colts would go 4-5 in their final 9 games under John Sandusky to finish with a 5-9 record, their first losing mark in 16 years. Following the season the Colts Johnny Unitas was traded to the San Diego Chargers. However, Unitas would not leave without coming off the bench his final game at Memorial Stadium. Leading the Colts on a 55-yard Touchdown pass late in the 4th Quarter to help beat the Buffalo Bills 35-7. Memorial Stadium gave the legend a standing ovation as a small plane flying overhead carried a banner reading "Unitas We Stand".[3]

1973 season

Howard Schnellenberger becomes the Colts head coach. The young Colts struggled early with QB Marty Domres during a 2-10 start. However, in the final games of the season the rookie Bert Jones replaced Domres, and led the Colts to a stunning upset of the Miami Dolphins as the Colts won their final 2 games to end the season at 4-10.[3]

1974 season

The Colts would get off to a 0-3 start when Coach Howard Schnellenberger is fired and replaced by Joe Thomas, the Colts would not perform any better under Thomas compiling a miserable 2-12 season.[3]

1975 season

Under new coach Ted Marchibroda the Colts would get off to a 1-4 start. However, the Colts would start winning as QB Bert Jones, and RB Lydell Mitchell came of age and led the Colts on a 7 game winning streak. The Colts would go on to win their last game of the season to claim the AFC East with a 10-4 record. However, in the Divisional Playoffs the young Colts were no match for the Steelers in Pittsburgh, suffering a season ending 28-10 loss.[3]

1976 season

Ted Marchibroda resigned as head coach. However, after players threatened mutiny Marchibroda was rehired. The Colts would go on to have a stellar season led by QB Bert Jones who wins the NFL MVP, by passing for 3,104 yards. The Colts put together a solid season and win the AFC East with an 11-3 record. However in the Divisional Playoffs the Colts were defeated again by the Pittsburgh Steelers 40-14.[3]

1977 season

After a 9-1 start the Colts lose 3 straight and face a must win game for the AFC East title in the final game of the year at Memorial Stadium against the New England Patriots. The game would be a shoot out as the Colts won their 3rd straight Division Title with a 30-24 victory to finish with a 10-4 record. In the Divisional Playoff the Colts would host the Oakland Raiders in a back and forth battle that went into double overtime. However, the Colts would lose to the Raiders 37-31.[3]

1978 season

The Colts march to a 4th straight AFC East Title was over before it began as QB Bert Jones was injured and the Colts lost their first 2 games by a combined 80-0 score. Jones would return but would be injured again as the Colts defense gave up 421 points in a disappointing 5-11 season.[3]

1979 season

Veteran QB Greg Landry replaces Bert Jones as starter, as the Colts continue to struggle finishing with another 5-11 record. Following the season Coach Ted Marchibroda would be fired, and replaced by Mike McCormick.[3]

1980 season

Bert Jones regains the starting job at Quarterback, and has a solid 3,134 yard passing season. However the Colts would play inconsistent football as the defense struggle during an unrewarding 7-9 season.[3]

1981 season

The Colts started the season on the right foot winning their first game of the season in New England 29-28 over the Patriots. However, the Colts would not win again until they played the Patriots at home in the final game of the season compiling a miserable 2-14 season, in which the Colts allowed 533 points, the most ever in a single NFL season. Following the season QB Bert Jones is traded to the Los Angeles Rams despite a strong 3,094-yard season. In addition Coach Mike McCormick is fired and replaced by Frank Kush.[3]

1982 season

Attendance began to dwindle at Memorial Stadium as the Colts struggled during a season interrupted by a 2-month strike. Actually the strike provided relief for the Colts, as the possibly avoided one of the worst seasons in NFL history. The Colts went winless while tying 1 game in the 9-game season.[3]

1983 season

With the number 1 pick in the NFL Draft the Colts selected QB John Elway from Stanford. However, Elway refused to play for the Colt's head coach Frank Kush. Fearful the Colts would get nothing for his rights the Colts traded John Elway to the Denver Broncos. After starting the season with an overtime win in New England over the Patriots the Colts faced the Broncos in their home opener where Baltimore fans were hostile to Elway. However, fans did get to see what they missed when Elway lead the game winning drive in the 4th quarter. Despite losing out on Elway, and 1-year suspension for gambling to QB Art Schlichter, the Colts managed to compile a commendable 7-9 record.[3]

Ownership's discontent

As far back as November 1971, Carroll Rosenbloom announced that the Colts would not return to Memorial Stadium when their lease ran out following the 1972 season and that he was not interested in negotiating with the city anymore.[6] He wanted out of Baltimore for a few reasons — money, problems with Baltimore Orioles ownership and a running feud with the Baltimore press.[6][7] Will Keland, a real estate investor was originally slated to buy the Colts from Rosenbloom. However, Keland could not generate enough funds necessary to purchase the team. His golfing buddy Robert Irsay, who was originally slated to own 1 percent of the team, did have the money available and he realized that he didn't need Keland. On July 13, 1972, Robert Irsay became the owner of the Colts. Under the terms of the arrangement, Irsay bought the Los Angeles Rams for $19 million, then traded them to Rosenbloom for the Colts and $3 million in cash. The players for each team remained in their respective cities.

In 1971 Baltimore mayor William Donald Schaefer and the state's governor, Marvin Mandel, created a stadium committee to examine the city's stadium needs. Their report was a blow to Memorial Stadium. Some of the problems mentioned: 10,000 stadium's seats had views that were "less than desirable"; 20,000 seats were out-dated bench seats that had no back support; 7,000 so called seats were actually poorly-constructed temporary bleachers that were installed for football games only. Also, there was not enough office space adequate enough for the front offices of either the Orioles or Colts, much less both teams combined. Both teams had to share locker rooms, the upper deck of Memorial Stadium did not circle the field, ending instead at the 50-yard line, thousands of potential seats (and added revenue) were missing. Any expansion plans for the stadium had usually mentioned less attractive (and less expensive) end-zone seats, not upper deck seating. And the number of bathroom facilities in Memorial Stadium was deemed inadequate.[6]

Maryland's planners came up with an ambitious project. Nicknamed the "Baltodome",[8] the original plan was to create a facility near the city's Inner Harbor known as Camden Yards. The new stadium would host 70,000 fans for football games, 55,000 for baseball and 20,000 as an arena for hockey or basketball. For an estimated $78 million, the city would build a facility that would have kept all parties; Orioles owner Hoffberger, Colts owner Irsay, the Stadium Complex Authority, Baltimore Mayor Schaefer and the state's governor, Marvin Mandel happy.[6]

But the proposal did not receive support to pass the Maryland legislature, in spite of the fact that assurances that contributions from taxpayers would be limited strictly to city and state loans. Stadium Complex Authority chairman Ed Rovner issued an important statement about the project, "A major consideration in Mr. Irsay's trading of franchises was the city's firm commitment to proceed with these plans."[6][8] But on February 27, 1974 Maryland's Governor Mandel pulled the plug on the idea.[8] New Colts owner Robert Irsay was willing to wait. "I'm a patient man. I think the people of Baltimore are going to see those new stadiums in New Orleans and Seattle opening in a year or two around the country, and they are going to realize they need a stadium ... for conventions and other things besides football."[6][8]

But Hyman Pressman, Baltimore's comptroller, was against the use of public funds to build a new complex. During the 1974 elections, Pressman had an amendment to the city's charter placed on the fall ballot. Known as Question P,[6] the amendment called for declaring "the 33rd Street stadium as a memorial to war veterans and prohibiting use of city funds for construction of any other stadium." The measure passed 56 percent to 44 percent, and the same jingoistic ideas that had been used to upgrade the then Baltimore Stadium (Originally built in 1922) in the late 40s and rename it Memorial Stadium, effectively destroyed any chance of a new, modern sports complex being built in Baltimore.[6][8] It can be reasonably concluded that in this legislation, lay the Colts move to Indianapolis.

Although the Colts made the playoffs for three straight years from 1975 to 1977, there had still been no progress made on a new park for the team. Robert Irsay first spoke with Phoenix, Arizona in 1976 and then Indianapolis, Indiana in 1977 about the possibility of relocating his team to one of those cities. In 1979 Irsay began shopping the Colts around in earnest, talking first to officials from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, Memphis, Tennessee and Jacksonville, Florida[7] where he visited the Gator Bowl packed with 50,000 cheering fans trying to convince him that Jacksonville would be the best home for the Colts. That same year Irsay presented Maryland's Governor Harry Hughes with a request for $25 million in renovation to the dilapidated 64,124 seat Memorial Stadium.[9] Irsay's request for $25 million in improvements was decreased to $23 million by the Maryland legislature. The plan added more seats (but none of the revenue-generating skyboxes), improving the plumbing and would've given both teams better office space. The plans approval was contingent on both the Colts and Baltimore Orioles signing long term leases. The Orioles challenged the requested football improvements and refused to sign anything more than a one year lease. Irsay also refused to sign long term. As a result, the funds and improvements never came.[6][9]

Relocation to Indianapolis

The RCA Dome was built to attract an NFL team; the Colts would become that team.

Under the administration of mayor Richard Lugar and then continuing with William Hudnut, Indianapolis was making a serious effort to reinvent itself into a 'Great American City'. In 1979, Indianapolis community leaders created the Indiana Sports Corp. in order to attract major sports events to central Indiana. The next year, Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut appointed a committee to study the feasibility of building a new stadium that could serve as home to a pro football team and in 1982 construction on the Hoosier Dome (later renamed the RCA Dome) began. On December 18, 1983, The Colts played their final home game in the city of Baltimore. 27,934 fans showed up, 516 more fans than the crowd that had turned out for their first home game in 1947. In February 1983, after relations between Irsay and the city of Baltimore had deteriorated significantly, Baltimore Mayor Schaefer asked the Maryland General Assembly to approve $15 million for renovation to Memorial Stadium. The legislature did not approve the request until the following spring, after the Colts' lease had expired,[10] and only half of that $15 million would go towards improvements that the Colts were seeking (The other half for the Orioles'). However, Baltimore reportedly did offer Irsay a generous $15 million loan at 6.5%, a guarantee of at least 43,000 tickets sold per game for six years, and the purchase of the team's Owings Mills training facility for $4 million.[7] Despite numerous public reassurances that Irsay's ultimate desire was to remain in Baltimore, he nevertheless continued discussions with several cities hungry for an NFL franchise (New York, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Birmingham, Jacksonville and Memphis[11]) eventually narrowing the list of cities to two, Phoenix and Indianapolis.[12] A real estate group in Phoenix, Arizona along with Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt and other top Arizona officials, had secretly met with Irsay early in January.[8] Preliminary talks seemed promising, another meeting was scheduled. But when word of a second scheduled meeting leaked out and was reported by the Baltimore media on the Friday before the Super Bowl, Irsay canceled.[12] Meanwhile, Indianapolis and local real estate developer Robert Welch, were lobbying the NFL to bring an expansion team to the city, with Welch as team owner. Welch had also had personal discussions with New Orleans Saints owner John Mecom about buying the team and moving it to Indianapolis. In January 1984, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle announced that expansion had been put on hold. As a result of that announcement, Indiana Pacers' owner Herb Simon contacted Colts officials in order to take negotiations between the club and Indianapolis to the next level. Mayor Hudnut then assigned deputy mayor David Frick to begin secret negotiations with Colts counsel Michael Chernoff. On February 13, Colts representatives came to town to look at the Hoosier Dome construction.[13] Colts owner Robert Irsay visited on February 23.

"He (Irsay) was visibly moved," former deputy mayor Dave Frick said commenting on Irsay's reaction to entering the brand new domed stadium. "Emotionally, he was making the move."[13]

Meanwhile in Baltimore, the situation worsened. Eventually, the Maryland legislature intervened and on March 27, one of its chambers passed legislation giving the city of Baltimore the right to seize ownership of the team by eminent domain[7] (An idea first floated in a memo written by Baltimore Mayoral Aide Mark Wasserman). Robert Irsay said his move was a direct result of the legislation.[9] Colts counsel Michael Chernoff would say of the eminent-domain bill "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".[7][13] Phoenix businessmen withdrew their offer the morning of March 28 and Irsay called Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut that afternoon and began serious negotiations in order to move the team before the Maryland legislature could pass the bill. The city of Indianapolis offered the Colts owner a $12,500,000 loan, a $4,000,000 training complex, and the use of the brand new $77.5 million, 57,980 seat Hoosier Dome.[14] After Irsay agreed to the deal, the Indianapolis Mayor called John B. Smith, his friend, neighbor and chief executive officer of Mayflower Transit, and 15 trucks were dispatched to the team's Owings Mills, Maryland training complex at 2:00 AM on March 29 because it was feared the franchise would be seized early the following morning.[13] Workers loaded all of the team's belongings and the trucks left for Indianapolis. By 10:00 AM, the Colts were completely gone from Baltimore.[15] Each of the Mayflower trucks took a slightly different route on the way to Indianapolis. This was done to confuse the Maryland police, who could've been called on to put a stop to the move. Once each van was at the Indiana state line, it was met by Indiana state troopers, who escorted each van to the Colts new home in Indianapolis. Later John Moag, Jr., chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, stated in sworn testimony before the U.S. Senate subcommittee responsible for the Fan Freedom and Community Protection Act: "It was the failure of our local (Baltimore) and state elected officials in Maryland to provide the Colts with a firm proposal for a new stadium that led Mr. Irsay to accept an offer from Indianapolis to play in a new dome in that city."[16]

Baltimore Mayor Schaefer, who was promised a call by Irsay if the team was to move,[17] appeared on the front page of the Baltimore Sun in tears. After the Colts left, he placed the building of a new stadium at the top of his legislative agenda.[9]

Indianapolis Mayor Hudnut held a press conference March 29 to announce an agreement had been reached and the team was on its way to Indianapolis. The deal was sealed March 30 with approval by the Capital Improvement Board, which operated the Hoosier Dome.

Baltimore moves on

Understandably, fans in Baltimore were heartbroken. In elections that year, city voters repealed Question P by a measure of 62 percent to 38 percent. The team's move triggered a flurry of legal activity, which ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and bills were filed in both the U.S. House and Senate seeking to block the move. In December 1985, a U.S. District Court judge threw out the lawsuit which sought to return the team to Maryland. Later, representatives of Baltimore and the Colts organization reached a settlement in March 1986 in which all lawsuits regarding the relocation were dismissed, and the Colts would endorse a new NFL team for Baltimore.[13] Nonetheless, many of the prominent old-time Colts (many of whom had settled in the Baltimore area) chose to cut all ties to the relocated Colts team. Most notable and vocal among them was Johnny Unitas, who recognized himself solely as a player for the Baltimore Colts until the day he died, with his estate defending that stand to this day. However, the NFL officially recognizes his achievements and records as the history of the Colts organization and as such are attributed to the current Colts organization and not the Ravens Organization.

The Baltimore Colts' final home game was played on December 18, 1983 against the then Houston Oilers. In the middle of a snow storm in the dead of night on March 28, 1984, Irsay moved the Colts to Indianapolis. Irsay acted without the NFL's approval and due to the NFL's court loss to Al Davis in his lawsuit to move the Raiders to L.A. the NFL was in no mood to try to stop Irsay from moving the Colts.[17] The New York Times stated that, "[b]y moving the Colts' franchise in such a murky manner, Robert Irsay almost makes Al Davis look like a silver and black knight."[17]

Despite agreeing to do so in the official agreement to end all litigation between the City of Baltimore and the Irsay family, the Irsay family refused to endorse Baltimore's bid for an NFL expansion franchise in 1993.[13] This decision, helped set in motion the Browns relocation to Baltimore. On November 6, 1995, Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell announced his intention to move Cleveland's team to Baltimore. The decision also triggered a flurry of legal activity. Finally, representatives of both cities and the NFL reached a settlement on February 9, 1996. It stipulated that the Browns' name, colors, and history of the franchise were to remain in Cleveland. It kept the Browns legacy in Cleveland, and Modell took his players and organization to Baltimore, which would be technically regarded as an expansion team. After the Browns relocated to Baltimore, Modell offered the Irsay family $5 million dollars for the rights to the Colts heritage. Jim Irsay replied that it would take at least $50 million dollars to relinquish the Colts name. Therefore, the new Baltimore team was named the Ravens after a fan vote.

The Indianapolis Colts

1984 season

This was the Colts' first season in Indianapolis. Jim Irsay was named general manager of the team. Frank Kush was head coach - until the final game when he was replaced by Hal Hunter. Prior to the start of the season the team received 143,000 requests in two weeks for season tickets. The Colts had two first-round draft picks in 1984. They chose Leonard Coleman and Ron Solt. Coleman could not reach an agreement with the Colts until early in 1985, and spent 1984 playing in the U.S. Football League. Other notable picks that year included Kevin Call in the 5th round and Eugene Daniel in the 8th. The Colts finished the 1984 season with 4 wins and 12 losses.[13]

1985 season

Rod Dowhower was named head coach in January 1985. The Colts' first-round draft pick was linebacker Duane Bickett. Their record was 5-11 but they finished the season strong, winning their last two games and averaging 5.0 yards per rushing attempt to lead the NFL. Rohn Stark won his second NFL punting title.[13]

1986 season

The Colts drafted Jon Hand in the first round, Jack Trudeau in the 2nd and Bill Brooks in the 4th round. More than 10,000 fans visited the new Colts Complex during an open house. The team had a terrible season, losing the first 13 games before winning the last 3. Dowhower was replaced by Ron Meyer on Dec. 1.[13]

1987 season

The Colts' number one draft pick was Cornelius Bennett. Two weeks into the regular season the players went on a 24-day strike. One week of games was cancelled, and for three weeks the teams played with replacement players. On Oct. 31 the Colts obtained Eric Dickerson from the L.A. Rams for six draft picks and two players. The deal also involved Buffalo, sending Cornelius Bennett from the Colts to the Bills and Chuck Banks came over from the Houston Oilers. The Colts finished the season 9-6 and clinched the AFC East title but lost to the Cleveland Browns in the divisional playoff game.[13]

1988 season

Due to the Dickerson trade the Colts had no draft pick until the third round when they took quarterback Chris Chandler. In the Colts' first Monday Night Football appearance they defeated Denver 55-23 before an ecstatic Halloween night crowd. Dickerson became the first Colt since Alan Ameche in 1955 to win the NFL rushing title. The Colts finished the season 9-7, and did not make the playoffs.[13]

1989 season

Andre Rison was the Colts' first-round draft pick. On Sept. 10 Dickerson surpassed the 10,000 rushing yards mark in his 91st career game - the quickest pace ever. The team again finished the season 9-7 but did not make the playoffs because of a 41-6 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the last game.[13]

1990 season

The Colts traded Chris Hinton, Andre Rison and draft picks to the Atlanta Falcons for the first pick of the 1990 draft so they could choose Indianapolis native and quarterback Jeff George. Eric Dickerson, after boycotting training camp and refusing to take physicals, was placed on the non-football injury list for six weeks. He was subsequently suspended four weeks for conduct detrimental to the team and forfeited $750,000 in wages and fines. The team finished the season 7-9.[13]

1991 season

Indianapolis had no first-round draft pick, but chose Shane Curry in Round-Two. Rick Venturi succeeded Ron Meyer as coach on Oct. 1. The team finished the season an NFL-worst 1-15. This record would not be broken until 2008 when the Detroit Lions went 0-16.[13]

1992 season

Ted Marchibroda was, once again, named head coach of the Colts on Jan. 28. For the second time he led the Colts to an NFL-best eight-game, one-season turnaround. The Colts had two first-round draft picks and chose Steve Emtman and Quentin Coryatt. In April, the Colts traded Eric Dickerson to the Los Angeles Raiders, ending his sometimes rocky 4½ years with the team. On May 3, 1992, second-year defensive end Shane Curry was shot to death outside a Cincinnati nightclub in a dispute over a car blocking the nightclub's driveway. Then, in a disastrous public relations move, the Colts cut Mark Herrmann the day after he led a season-opening victory at home over Cleveland - and one week after another popular player, Albert Bentley, had been let go. The Colts finished the season 9-7.[13]

1993 season

Sean Dawkins was the Colts' first-round pick. They suffered all year from the lack of a running game, a passing game (20 quarters without a touchdown) or an effective defense. Amid dwindling crowds, the Colts wobbled into the offseason with a 4–12 record. They ended the year with a four-game losing streak, and had eight losses in their last nine games.[13]

1994 season

Running Back Marshall Faulk was drafted 2nd overall and Linebacker Trev Alberts was drafted 5th overall in the NFL Draft. The Colts brought in Bill Tobin as 'Vice President of All Football Operations'. In March, Jeff George was traded to the Atlanta Falcons. Despite going undefeated in the preseason the Colts opened the regular season with an all-time low attendance of 47,372. The Colts finished 8-8 - out of the playoffs.[13]

1995 season

The Colts' first-round draft pick was Ellis Johnson; and in the second round, Ken Dilger. The Colts entered the season with high hopes. "Captain Comeback" Jim Harbaugh became the starting quarterback in Week Three and ended the season as the NFL's top-rated passer. He led the "Cardiac Colts" to a 9-7 season and a trip to the playoffs. In the playoffs, the underdog Colts defeated the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. But, in the AFC championship game, they lost a heartbreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-16 when a last-second Hail-Mary pass was dropped in the end-zone by Aaron Bailey.[13]

Marvin Harrison arrives

Marvin Harrison

Syracuse Wide Receiver Marvin Harrison was selected by the Colts with the 19th pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, a pick that was obtained in a trade that sent Jeff George to the Atlanta Falcons. In February, in another unpopular move, and despite the success of the 1995 season, the Colts offered head coach Ted Marchibroda only a one-year contract deal which he turned down. Marchibroda, whose 73 career victories with the Colts tied Shula, was replaced by Lindy Infante. Also in February, Robert Irsay's wife, Nancy, and his son, Jim, filed petitions seeking guardianship of his estate while he remained incapacitated from a stroke he had suffered the previous November. The Colts finished 9-7, despite being plagued with injuries, and again made the playoffs. They lost, again to Pittsburgh, in a 42-14 thrashing.[13]

Jim Irsay takes over

Jim Irsay, at age 37, became the youngest team owner in the NFL after his father's death and following a legal fight with his stepmother. He began working for the Colts in 1982, at the ticket counter and in public relations. He was named general manager in 1984 one month after the Colts moved to Indianapolis. He has since made the Colts his career and his only significant business venture and has been described as "The best small-market owner in the NFL."[18] After his father died, Jim immediately began to put his own seal on the team. Other NFL team owners "credit his work as an owner and his personality as a significant reason for awarding Indianapolis the 2012 Super Bowl, a rare honor for a cold-weather city."[18] Patriots Owner Robert Kraft: "I voted for Indianapolis because of Jim, because I like him and respect what he's done there."[18]

1997 season

The first-round draft pick was Tarik Glenn. Adam Meadows was acquired in the second round. Indicative of the ongoing frustration and futility of the team, was a confrontation between Jim Harbaugh and Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly during which Harbaugh broke his hand. The injury-plagued Colts did not win a game until the 11th game of the season, and finished the year 3-13. Assuming responsibility for his team, Jim Irsay cleaned house in December, firing both coach Linde Infante and director of football operations Bill Tobin. He then named Bill Polian president of the team.[13]

Bill Polian arrives

On December 21, 1997, the Colts lost to the Vikings and finishing the season 3-13. The very next day, Bill Polian was hired as President to try and turn the team around. Polian was General Manager of the Buffalo Bills from 1986 to 1993. "When Bill Polian was promoted to the GM position, the Bills were suffering from back to back 2-14 seasons and fan interest was at an all-time low. Polian had expertly put the pieces together that would make the Bills a "championship caliber team," appearing in an NFL record, 4 straight Super Bowls. Because of his accomplishments, Bill Polian won the NFL Executive of the Year Award twice, in 1988 and in 1991. Polian then became General Manager of the Carolina Panthers from 1994 to 1996. He tried to create the quickest Super Bowl winner in history, and nearly did so, building a team that went to the NFC Championship game in only its second year of existence.

As the Colts GM and President, Polian opted not to keep QB Jim Harbaugh, who had led the team to the AFC Championship game following the 1995 season. Instead, he decided to build through the draft as the Colts would have the number 1 overall pick for 1998, and 2 of the most hyped quarterbacks would be coming out of college (Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning). Polian chose Manning because the San Diego Chargers would take Ryan Leaf first; Leaf's abbreviated career appears to have shown the wisdom of Polian's choice.

Peyton Manning era

Peyton Manning

Jim Irsay began to shape the Colts one year after assuming control from his father by firing Coach Lindy Infante and hiring Bill Polian to run the organization. Polian in turn hired Jim Mora to coach the team and drafted University of Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning, the son of New Orleans Saints legend Archie Manning, with the first pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.

1998 season

In January, Jim Irsay and the city agreed to a revised lease at the RCA Dome which provided the Colts with $8 million a year in dome-generated revenues and assured the city the team will be here at least 10 more years.[13] 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.

1999 season

The Colts' first-round draft pick was running back Edgerrin James, a surprise to many who thought they would take Ricky Williams, the Heisman Trophy winner. Two days before the draft, Marshall Faulk was traded to the St. Louis Rams. Third-round pick, Brandon Burlsworth, was killed in an automobile accident in Arkansas April 28. James caught on quickly and Manning and Marvin Harrison clicked as a potent passing combination. In October, Steve Muhammad's wife died as did the baby she was carrying when she went into premature labor following a car accident. After her death it was revealed that 10 days before the accident Muhammad had been arrested for battery on his pregnant wife. The Colts finished the season 13-3 - in what was the greatest one-year turnaround in NFL history - and won the AFC East. They hosted Indianapolis' first ever playoff game but were defeated by the eventual AFC Champion Tennessee Titans 19-16. 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.[13]

2000 season

The Colts drafted BYU linebacker Rob Morris in the first round (28th overall) of the NFL Draft. Both the team and their fans entered the 2000 season with high expectations. After winning the AFC East with a 13-3 record in 1999, and with young stars Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James just hitting their strides many predicted this would be the year the Colts would do even better and march straight to the Super Bowl. Jim Irsay even talked about winning three Super Bowls in a row. But things didn't quite turn out that way. The Colts' offense had impressive moments, sprinting through defenders with a no-huddle offense that left their opponents little time to catch their breath. But the Indianapolis defense was erratic - sometimes performing well but more often seeming unable to do what had to be done at crucial moments. Eight games into the season the Colts were 6-2, though some of the wins had been heart-stoppers with last-minute heroics overcoming earlier mistakes. Then they lost four of the next five games, and suddenly even making it into playoffs was in doubt. With three games left in the season the Colts only chance was to win all three - and they did. 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. They earned a wildcard spot in the playoffs, but lost the game 23-17 to the Miami Dolphins. The organization entered the off-season knowing the area most in need of attention was the defense.[13]

2001 season

Reggie Wayne was selected with the 30th pick in the NFL Draft. The 2001 season was a major disappointment. However, Manning (4,131) and Harrison (109) had outstanding yardage and reception seasons. The team finished 6-10, managing only two wins in its last nine games. And, as in 2000, the defense took the brunt of the criticism. It ranked No. 30 in total yards allowed, tied for No. 26 in generating takeaways and No. 31 in points allowed. But the defense wasn't the only problem. The special teams' performance was often really bad and Peyton Manning was plagued by turnovers. The team was also hurt by injuries throughout the season, the most serious occurring on Oct. 25, when running back Edgerrin James tore his ACL in the sixth game of the 2001 season, and while backup Dominic Rhodes proved a capable starter in becoming the first undrafted rookie to rush for over 1000 yards, the loss of James and a defense that gave up the most points in a season of any NFL team since 1981 proved too much to overcome. Coach Jim Mora was fired with one year remaining on his contract, reportedly due to a disagreement with general manager Bill Polian over defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Tony Dungy, who had been fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was given a five-year contract to coach the Colts on Jan. 22, 2002.[13]

Tony Dungy arrives

Indianapolis Colts Former Head Coach Tony Dungy

The firing of Mora led to the hiring of head coach Tony Dungy, the former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Colts owner Jim Irsay was so committed to bringing Tony Dungy aboard that he, not Colts GM Bill Polian, initiated the contact. Late on January 19, 2002, Irsay phoned Dungy at his home in Tampa. "I just wanted him to know from the start that there was no other coach on the planet I wanted to coach my football team," Irsay said. "Not Steve Spurrier. Not Bill Parcells."[19] Dungy became the 35th coach in NFL history to earn 100 career victories (including playoffs) with a 38-20 win at Houston on Oct. 23, 2005. Dungy is only the sixth coach to win 100-plus regular-season games in the first 10 years as a head coach (113, George Seifert; 105, Don Shula; 103, John Madden; 102, Dungy; 101, Joe Gibbs; 101, Mike Ditka).

He is the NFL's winningest head coach from 1999 to 2005 with a mark of 78-34 (30-18 with Tampa Bay, 48-16 with Colts), and his .638 winning percentage ranks second among active head coaches. He has directed the Colts to 10-6, 12-4, 12-4 and 14-2 records, becoming the only coach in club history to produce 10-plus victories and playoff berths in the first four seasons with the team.

Dungy has seven career double-digit victory seasons and stands as the only NFL head coach to defeat all 32 NFL teams.

2002 season

Dwight Freeney was selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the 11th selection in the 2002 NFL Draft. The Colts finished the season with a 10-6 record, earning a wild-card slot in the playoffs. In that game however, the Colts were humiliated with a 41-0 shutout at the hands of the New York Jets. Marvin Harrison had a stellar year, breaking several club and NFL records, but running back Edgerrin James was hampered by injuries most of the season. Peyton Manning was often brilliant but threw 19 interceptions, most of them in games the Colts went on to lose. In a troubling pattern, the Colts repeatedly squandered the first half of a game, often falling so far behind that despite second half rallies, they could not overcome the deficit. Freeney set an NFL rookie record in 2002 with 9 forced fumbles, three of which occurred in a single game against former Syracuse football player, Donovan McNabb. Freeney was the runner up for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.[13]

2003 season

Dwight Freeney

The Colts finished the season 14–5 - and won the AFC South with a regular season record of 12-4. Peyton Manning was named co-MVP of the NFL, along with Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair, and In the playoffs, Manning and the Colts put an emphatic halt to talk they could not win the "big one," rolling over the Denver Broncos 41–10. They then defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, at Kansas City, 38–31. However, in the AFC title game at New England, the Patriots defense was all over the Colts. Manning threw only one touchdown pass and was intercepted four times. The Patriots won the game 24–14 putting an end to the hopes of the team and the fans that this was the season the Colts would go all the way.[13]

2004 season

Safety Bob Sanders was selected in the 2nd round (44th overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft. The 2004 season ended almost exactly the way the 2003 season had, with the New England Patriots pummeling the Colts, in the cold at Foxboro, and knocking them out of the playoffs. After a year in which the offense broke numerous team and league records, the Colts could manage to score only one field goal in their final game, losing 20-3. For the second year in a row, Peyton Manning was named the league's Most Valuable Player and his 49 regular-season touchdowns broke a record that Dan Marino had held since 1984. The wide receiving trio of Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley each had at least 10 touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards for the season - also a league first. Edgerrin James ended the season ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,548 yards, an average of 4.6 yards per carry. And although questions continued to surround the defense, Dwight Freeney led the league with 16 sacks.[13]

2005 season

University of Michigan Cornerback Marlin Jackson was selected with the 29th overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft. Dungy led the Colts to a franchise-record 14 wins and a third consecutive divisional title, the fifth for the club in its 22-year Indianapolis era. The Colts became the 4th team in league history to win their first 13 games, but the season ended with a loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.

Manning and Marvin Harrison broke Steve Young and Jerry Rice's NFL record for most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver tandem, notching their 86th in a Monday Night home game against St. Louis Rams in week 6. Two weeks later Peyton Manning logged his first victory at New England against the Patriots, ending a six game New England win streak. After defeating Jacksonville in week 14 they became only the fourth team in NFL history to reach a record of 13–0 and clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The dream of a perfect record for the Colts ended the next week however as the San Diego Chargers defeated the Colts 26–17.

In week 16, the Colts played without coach Tony Dungy following the suicide of his son James earlier in the week. With the team resting most of their key players, the Colts lost their second straight to the eventual NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks. Dungy returned to the sidelines for the last regular season game as the Colts beat the Arizona Cardinals 17–13 while resting most of the team's usual starters. The team's final record of 14–2 marked the best 16-game season in the franchise's history.

On January 15, 2006, the Colts were eliminated in the divisional round by the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, 21–18. Trailing 21–10 late in the game, the Colts regained possession and put 8 points on the board to make it 21–18. After a Jerome Bettis fumble on the goal line, Nick Harper picked up the fumble and almost ran it back, but was tackled at the 40 yard line by Ben Roethlisberger. The Colts then drove down the field, only to have Mike Vanderjagt miss a 46-yard field goal attempt wide right.

2006 season

Running back Joseph Addai was selected in the first round (30th overall pick) of the 2006 NFL Draft out of Louisiana State University. After becoming the first team in NFL history to begin two consecutive seasons by winning nine games, the Colts proceeded to lose three of the next four, largely due to the league's worst run defense. However, they still captured their fourth consecutive AFC South title by defeating the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football in Week 15 of the season with, ironically, a strong showing from their defense. The Colts finished the season with a 12–4 record, giving them the number three seed in the playoffs. The record also marked their fifth consecutive season with ten victories or more. In week 13 against the Titans, the quarterback-wide receiver combination of Manning to Harrison became the all time leader in touchdowns in NFL History.[20]

In the Colts' first-round playoff game, they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 23-8, despite Peyton Manning throwing three interceptions. The Colts defense managed to hold the Chiefs to 44 yards on the ground and 2 yards passing in the first half. The Chiefs did not earn a first down until 3:33 remained in the third quarter.

The Colts defeated the Baltimore Ravens 15-6 in the division playoff round, thanks to kicker Adam Vinatieri's five field goals and another impressive defensive showing. They played the New England Patriots at home in the AFC title game for the rights to the Super Bowl; it was the Colts' third conference championship game in the Indianapolis era. The game marked the first time that the AFC title game was played in a domed stadium. After trailing at one point 21–3, the Colts stormed back, defeating the arch-rival Patriots for the third consecutive time. With a final score of 38–34, the 18-point comeback was the largest ever in an NFL conference championship game, and tied the record for the fourth largest NFL postseason comeback.[21]

Super Bowl XLI

White House ceremony honoring the 2007 NFL Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts defeated the Chicago Bears 29-17 on February 4, 2007 in Dolphin Stadium, after overcoming a rocky start that saw the Bears' Devin Hester return the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and the Colts' Peyton Manning throw an early interception. Rain fell throughout the game, for the first time in Super Bowl history, significantly contributing to the six turnovers committed by both teams in the first half. Peyton Manning was awarded the MVP after completing 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown, caught by Reggie Wayne.

Colts' running backs Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai combined for 190 rushing yards and a touchdown, while kicker Adam Vinatieri converted 3 of his 4 field goal attempts. Defensively, safety Bob Sanders and cornerback Kelvin Hayden each intercepted Bears' quarterback Rex Grossman late in the game, with Hayden returning his for 56 yards and a touchdown, essentially sealing the Colts' victory.

Indianapolis became the first "dome team" to win a Super Bowl in an outdoor stadium, the first to win in the rain, and the first to win after having the statistically worst rushing defense in the league during the regular season. Tony Dungy became only the third man to have won the Super Bowl as both a head coach {XLI} and a player {XIII} (along with Tom Flores {IV-player, XV and XVIII-coach} and Mike Ditka {VI-player, XX-coach}), as well as the first African-American Head Coach to win a Super Bowl (a distinction that would have occurred regardless of which team won, as the Bears were coached by another African-American coach, Lovie Smith). With the win the Colts became the only team to date to win a Super Bowl from the AFC South. Also the Colts have made it to the Super Bowl three times, all three in Miami.

2007 season

Ohio State Wide Receiver Anthony Gonzalez was selected with the 32nd pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Earlier on February 19, 2007, the Colts placed the franchise tag on Freeney following the expiration of his rookie contract. This move allowed Bill Polian and the Colts front office time to work on a long term contract.[22] On July 13, 2007 Dwight Freeney signed a six-year, $72 million contract with $30 million in guarantees making Freeney the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.[23] 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 and became one of four NFL teams to open three consecutive seasons with 5-0 starts in topping Tampa Bay, 33-14. Indianapolis joined Green Bay (1929–31), Minnesota (1973–75) and St. Louis (1999–2001) with three straight 5-0 starts. And then becoming the first team in 76 years to start three consecutive seasons with 7-0 starts. Peyton Manning (288) broke the club record for career touchdown passes held by Johnny Unitas (287), while Tony Dungy notched his 74th win to break the franchise record he had shared with Don Shula (73) and Ted Marchibroda (73). The club fell in the Divisional Playoffs to San Diego, 28-24. Dungy became the only coach in Colts history to post 10+ wins and earn playoff appearances in six straight seasons.


Arizona State Offensive Guard Mike Pollak was taken with the Colts second round selection (59th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft. On January 21, 2008 Tony Dungy announced he would return for at least one more season. The Colts also announced that Assistant Head Coach Jim Caldwell would be promoted to Associate Head Coach and would assume the position of Colts Head Coach whenever Tony Dungy decided to retire. The 2008 season was the Colts' inaugural season playing at the newly completed Lucas Oil Stadium. 2008 was the first season that the Colts did not win the AFC South title. After a 3-4 start on the season, the Colts went on a nine-game winning streak and finished the season at 12-4 and earned a wild card berth in the playoffs. They extended 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. QB Peyton Manning won his third AP NFL MVP award. Indianapolis fell in the wild card round in overtime at San Diego, 23-17.

In 2009, the Colts set new records by winning the first 14 games of the season, being seriously favored to go to the Super Bowl as early as October. The highlight of the regular season was a Week 10 match at home against the Patriots. Although outplayed for most of the game, the Colts obtained a 35-34 victory after a controversial 4th and 2 play by their opponent. Peyton Manning was sacked only ten times during the regular season, and Indianapolis had the opportunity to repeat New England's 16-0 2007 record. But during the Week 14 game against the New York Jets, Jim Caldwell suddenly decided to pull the starting line, allowing their opponent an easy win. Caldwell suffered a barrage of attacks from Colts fans and football experts for letting the team's chance at a perfect season get away. While the coach maintained that he wanted to rest the starters for the postseason, it was widely believed that he wanted to let the Jets (generally seen as a weak team) into the playoffs instead of Pittsburgh or another strong opponent. The Colts finished their regular season on January 3, 2010 by losing to the Buffalo Bills on a cold, snowy day.

With the #1 AFC seed, Indianapolis earned a first-round bye, and in the divisional matchup easily defeated the Ravens 20-3. Meanwhile, the Jets had made a completely unexpected playoff run by defeating Cincinnati and San Diego. They thus engaged the Colts in a rematch for the conference title. Running at full strength, Indianapolis handily defeated the Jets to make their second Super Bowl trip in three years.

Once again, the Colts would play the Super Bowl in Miami, this time against the New Orleans Saints. Despite a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, New Orleans managed to catch up, and in the 4th quarter Peyton Manning threw a pass that was intercepted by Saints CB Tracy Porter and returned for a touchdown. This and generally inconsistent play by the team would sink their chances at another championship, and the Saints would go on to win 31-17.

The Colts began 2010 with a stunning upset defeat in Houston, where the Texans beat them 34-24 and poor O-line performance caused Peyton Manning to take several hits. The next week, they hosted the Giants in the second Manning Bowl, and just like in 2006, Peyton easily overpowered his brother's team to win 38-14. The Colts racked up another impressive win in Denver the following week, with Manning throwing for 325 yards and three TD passes, but in Week 4 their second division match ended in defeat as Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee made a last-second FG to win 27-24. After this, the Colts won three in a row, beating Kansas City 19-9, Houston 30-17, and Washington 27-24. In Week 9, they donned throwback uniforms for only the second time ever (first was in 2002) and headed to Philadelphia. Indianapolis lost a hard-fought battle 27-24 as Manning was intercepted twice and WR Austin Collie knocked unconscious and taken off the field on a stretcher. Following a 23-17 win over 2-6 Cincinnati, the Colts (who were quickly becoming injury-depleted) headed to New England for another battle with their old rivals. Manning threw four touchdown passes, but also three picks as the Patriots won 31-28. After this, the Colts lost at home to San Diego 36-14, a team that had repeatedly vexed them over the last decade (Manning's all-time record against the Chargers was 1-5). This was Indianapolis's first home loss since September 2008 and saw Manning throw four interceptions (against three touchdown passes). Even worse was a second home loss against the Cowboys (38-35) in which Manning threw another four picks and the injury-thinned team found itself at risk to not make the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The Colts next managed a desperate 30-28 win over Tennessee on Thursday Night Football. Following this, they beat Jacksonville at home 34-24 to regain the top of the division. After beating Oakland and Tennessee, the Colts secured the #3 seed and, despite the travails of the regular season, another division title.

Jim Caldwell takes over

Tony Dungy retired on January 12, 2009. On January 13, Jim Caldwell who had been named his successor previously, was formally announced as the new head coach.

Future leadership in place

Colts Owner Jim Irsay has tapped Colts Vice President of Football Operations Chris Polian to replace his father Bill Polian when he retires.[24] Irsay has also said multiple times that when Peyton Manning retires, his daughter, Vice President of Marketing and Community Relations division, Casey Irsay, will take over his seat as CEO.[25]

Lucas Oil Stadium

After 24 years of playing at the RCA Dome, the Colts moved to their new home Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts began playing in Lucas Oil Stadium in the fall of 2008. In December 2004, the City of Indianapolis and Jim Irsay agreed to a new stadium deal that would benefit both the city and the team at an estimated cost of $675 million. In a deal estimated at $122 million, Lucas Oil Products won the naming rights to the stadium for 20 years.

It is a seven-level stadium with a retractable roof seating 63,000 for football. It can be reconfigured to seat 70,000 or more for NCAA basketball and football and concerts. It will cover 1,800,000 square feet (167,225 m2). The stadium features a retractable roof allowing the Colts to play home games outdoors for the first time since arriving in Indianapolis. Using FieldTurf, the playing surface will be roughly 25 ft (8 m) below ground level. The new stadium was bigger and better than the RCA Dome in many ways, including: 58 permanent concession stands, 90 portable concession stands, 13 escalators, 11 passenger elevators, 800 restrooms, high definition scoreboards and replay monitors and 142 luxury suites. Other than being the home of the Colts, the stadium will host games in both the Men's and Women's NCAA Basketball Tournaments and will serve as the back up host for all NCAA Final Four Tournaments. It will also host numerous events and conventions. The stadium will host the Super Bowl for the 2012 season (Super Bowl XLVI) and has a potential economic impact estimated at $286,000,001.

In an ironic twist, a company based near Baltimore, "Controlled Demolition", oversaw the demolition of the RCA Dome. "It's a little ironic that a demolition company from Baltimore had the opportunity to take down the stadium to where the Colts fled when they left Baltimore," said Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition and a Baltimore Ravens fan.[26]


Division rivals

Historic rivals

Season-by-season records


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  2. "A look at the history of the Indianapolis Colts".
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  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 "Video". CNN. December 15, 1986. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "SIIrsay" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "SIIrsay" defined multiple times with different content
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "GoogleBookPlayingTheField" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "GoogleBookPlayingTheField" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "GoogleBookPlayingTheField" defined multiple times with different content
  10. Stadiums of the NFL - Memorial Stadium
  11. "SPORTS PEOPLE; New Talks on Colts". The New York Times. February 28, 1984. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Descendants of the Mayflower - A History of the Indianapolis Colts
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 13.12 13.13 13.14 13.15 13.16 13.17 13.18 13.19 13.20 13.21 13.22 13.23 13.24 13.25 13.26 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "indystarColts" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "indystarColts" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "indystarColts" defined multiple times with different content
  14. Moving the Company
  15. "The Greatest Game Ever Played" documentary on ESPN, 2008-12-13
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Colts' Jim Irsay Profiled As One Of The NFL's Savviest Owners
  19. USA Today-Dungy inherits high-powered offense.
  20. "Official Bio on". Retrieved 2007-01-14.
  21. 2006 NFL Record and Fact Book. pp. 347. ISBN 1-933405-32-5.
  23. ESPN - Freeney's deal cap friendly for 2007, 2008 - NFL
  24. Meet the Colts’ other Polian
  25. Jim Irsay tells of his one-day successor, his daughter, Casey Irsay