1947-1952: In the rival All-American Football Conference, Baltimore is granted a franchise after the Miami Seahawks fold. The team would be named Colts in honor of Baltimore’s rich history with racing, and breeding of horses. The Colts would incur moderate success in the rival league before becoming one of four teams to join the NFL in 1950. However the team could not make money and folded after just one season. Meanwhile the New York Yankees, another former AAFC team that had joined the NFL in 1950, also was having problems and was about to be sold to Baltimore investors in 1951. However, the league bought the team instead and had them play in Dallas. The Texans were a miserable failure, and by the middle of the season were operating out of Hershey, Pennsylvania and playing all their games on the road. The team would fold at the end of the season. However, it would open the door for Baltimore to get a second chance and to replace the Texans; Baltimore was granted a franchise that would pay homage to the former team by carrying the name Colts.
1953: The second incarnation of the Baltimore Colts first took the field at Memorial Stadium on September 27th, with Coach Keith Molesworth leading them into battle with the Chicago Bears. The Colts would stun the Bears that day 13-9 to get the new franchise off on the right foot. The Colts would go on to play well in a 3-2 start. However, the team’s inexperience caught up with them and they lost their final seven games of the season to finish at 3-9. Following the season Coach Molesworth is reassigned to be the team’s director of scouting while Weeb Ewbank is brought in to lead the team on the field.
1954: The young Colts continued to struggle in their first season under Coach Weeb Ewbank, duplicating their 3-9 inaugural season record.
1955: With 12 rookies making the team, the Colts were clearly a team for the future, and for a brief time it looked as if the future was now when the team got off to a 3-0 start. However, the team would only win two more games the rest of the season finishing with a 5-6-1 record.
1956: The Colts are forced to go to an unproven back up after Quarterback George Shaw was lost to injury after the fourth game of the season with Colts sitting at 1-3. The unproven backup was once drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but quickly failed and was released. He would go on to play semi-pro ball before being picked up by the Cots. However, little did anyone know at the time the unproven backup named Johnny Unitas, was about to embark on one of the greatest careers in NFL history. Unitas would play solid football as the Colts split the eight games he started to finish with a 5-7 record.
1957: In Johnny Unitas’ first full season as starting Quarterback, the Colts get off to a 3-0 start, and are a factor all year in the race for the Western Division Title. After losing 3 in a row, the Colts responded by winning four games in a row, and sat at 7-3 with the Western Division Title within their grasp. However, the Colts would lose their final two games of the season, and at 7-5, one game out of a two-way tie for the division title.
1958: The Colts came flying out of the gate winning their first six games; on the way to a 9-1 start that had sewn up the Western Division Title. However, the Colts would limp into the NFL Championship game after losing their final two games of the season. On December 28th the Colts prepared to face the New York Giants in the NFL Championship game at Yankee Stadium, as a nationwide Television audience settled in for their first true glance at an NFL Championship Game. For years the NFL had toiled in local markets without national attention, while trying to get itself in to America’s consciousness. Throughout the 50’s the NFL had grown, but the growth had not made it into mass appeal yet. The NFL only hoped this game would help in attaining that goal. The Colts went to halftime with a 14-3 lead after scoring two Touchdowns in the 2nd Quarter. However, the Giants would come back, and take a 17-14 lead, as Colts Kicker Steve Myhra missed two Field Goals. With time winding down Johnny Unitas brought the Colts down field, setting up Myhra for a 20-yard Field Goal that tied the game with seven seconds left. 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 who scored first won, and when the Giants got the ball first the Colts knew they must stop them. The Colts defense rose to the occasion forcing the Giants to punt after just three plays. The Colts would get the ball, but after Unitas lost eight yards on a sack the drive looked stalled at 3rd and 15. However, Unitas would hit Wide Receiver Raymond Berry with a clutch pass that gave the Colts a 1st down in Giants territory. The Colts continued to drive down the field until a Unitas pass set them up on the 1-yard line first and goal. Not content with a Field Goal, Unitas handed off to Alan Ameche who dove across the goal line to give the Colts a 23-17 win, in what many called the greatest game ever. The game would server as a launching point, and was the start of the NFL’s remarkable boom in popularity.
1959: The Colts use a season ending five game winning streak to win their second straight Western Division Championship with a 9-3 record. The Colts would find themselves in a Championship Game rematch with New York Giants, with the game this time being played at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. For the first three quarters the Colts fans watched in shock as the Colts fell behind 9-7. However Johnny Unitas would lead the Colts back in the 4th Quarter scoring 24 unanswered points, as the Colts to claim their second straight NFL Championship with a 31-16 victory.
1960: The Colts were a strong contender for the Western Division Title again with a 6-2 start. However, the Colts would drop their final four games as their two year Championship reign ended with a disappointing 6-6- record.
1961: The Colts play mediocre football through the first half of the season, and end up being a non-factor in the playoff race, while finishing with an 8-6 record.
1962: With injuries and age taking their toll the Colts struggle all season finishing with a 7-7 record. Following the season Coach Weeb Ewbank would be fired, and replaced by Don Shula who had played with Colts in their inaugural season of 1953.
1963: With an influx of young talent the Colts struggle early in their first season under Coach Don Shula. However the Colts would end the season on a strong note by winning their final three games to finish with an 8-6 record.
1964: After dropping the first game of the season in Minnesota to the Vikings the Colts embark on a ten game winning streak on the way to winning the Western Division Championship with a 12-2 record, as Quarterback Johnny Unitas wins the NFL MVP with 2,824 yards passing. In the NFL Championship Game the Colts face the Cleveland Browns. However, nothing would go right in Cleveland as the Colts are whitewashed 27-0.
1965: The Colts appear to be a strong contender for the Western Division Championship again. However injuries to Quarterback Johnny Unitas and backup 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 Field Goal a little over a minute into the second overtime period.
1966: The Colts put together another solid 9-5 season. However, they are swept by the Green Bay Packers, who beat the Colts by three games to claim the western division title.
1967: 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.
1968: Johnny Unitas misses most of the season with a chronically sore elbow. However, the Colts do not miss a beat as back up Quarterback Earl Morrall steps in and wins the MVP, while leading the Colts on a record breaking 13-1 season, which easily captures the Coastal Division. While Morrall led the offense, the Colts defense shut out three 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. In the NFL Championship Game the Colts faced the Browns in Cleveland hoping to avenge their only loss of the season. The game was never close as the Colts destroyed the Browns 34-0, to advance to Super Bowl III.
Super Bowl III: Going in to Super Bowl III in Miami the Colts were favored by 18 points as they faced the New York Jets, who were coached by Weeb Ewbank. Most still viewed the AFL as a lesser league, and winning the Super Bowl was just a mere formality for the Colts. However, the Jets came in confident as Quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed a victory. The first half was a defense struggle as the Jets had a 7-0 lead late in the 2nd Quarter. The Colts finally started to get down the field as time was winding down in the first half. However, on a key play Earl Morrall could not see a wide-open Jimmy Orr, and threw into heavy coverage where Johnny Sample picked him off. It was one three interceptions Earl Morrall threw in the game, as the Jets grabbed 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 then four minutes the desperate Colts recovered an on side kick to keep their hopes alive. However, not even Unitas had enough magic this day as the Jets completed the biggest upset in NFL history 16-7.
1969: Still suffering from a Super Bowl hangover the Colts stumble out of the gates losing their first two games the Colts struggle to finish with an 8-5-1 record, as they are never a factor in the race for the Coastal Division Title. Following the season Coach Don Shula who fell out of favor with Owner Carroll Rosenbloom was allowed to resign so he could take the coaching job with Miami Dolphins. Assistant Coach Don McCafferty would replace Shula in Baltimore.
1970: The Colts are one of three teams that are shifted to the AFC as the NFL-AFL merger is completed with each conference having an equal amount of teams, and divisions. The Colts have no problems adjusting to the AFC winning the Eastern Division while posting an impressive 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, twice. In the Divisional Playoffs the Colts smother the Cincinnati Bengals 17-0 before a raucous crowd at Memorial Stadium. The old stadium on 33rd street was the site again as the Colts faced the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship. The Colts were not to be denied beating the Raiders 27-17 to advance to Super Bowl V.
Super Bowl V: The Colts returned to Miami, determined not to repeat their mistakes from Super Bowl III. This time their opponents were the Dallas Cowboys who were trying to erase the reputation of losing the big one. The Cowboys jumped out to a 6-0 lead on two Field Goals 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 second half of 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 two yard plunge by Running Back Tom Nowatzke. With less then two minutes left Cowboys Running Back Dan Reeves fumbled the ball setting up the Colts in Dallas territory. The Colts would win the game on a 32-yard Field Goal from Jim O’Brien with five seconds left.
1971: Despite obvious declines from Quarterbacks Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall, the Colts appeared to be on the verge of winning the AFC East again after beating the Miami Dolphins 14-3 in the next-to-last game of the season. However, the Colts would drop a home game in the final game of the season to the New England Patriots, forcing them to settle for the Wild Card with a 10-4 record. In the Divisional Round the Colts would stun the Browns in Cleveland 20-3 to advance to the AFC Championship Game for the second year in a row. However, the Colts would run into a buzz saw as the Miami Dolphins coached by Don Shula shutout the Colts 21-0, ending the Colts’ hopes for a second straight Super Bowl.
1972: On July 26th Carroll Rosenbloom and Robert Irsay, who had recently taken over the Los Angeles Rams, traded ownership of the two franchises, with players and coaching staffs remaining intact. However, the Colts were an aging team and when they got off to a 1-4 start Coach Don McCafferty was fired. The Colts would go 4-5 in their final nine games under John Sandusky to finish with a 5-9 record, their first losing mark in 16 years. Following the season, the Colts would see an end of an era when Johnny Unitas is traded to the San Diego Chargers. However, Unitas would not leave without one final great moment, as he came off the bench in his final game at Memorial Stadium to replace Marty Domres leading the Colts by hitting Eddie Hinton on a 55-yard Touchdown pass late in the 4th Quarter to help beat the Buffalo Bills 35-7, as Memorial Stadium gave the legend a standing ovation as a small plane carried a banner reading “Unitas We Stand.”
1973: A new era began for the Colts as they bring in Howard Schnellenberger to lead the young Colts. The young Colts struggled early with Quarterback 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 two games to end the season at 4-10.
1974: 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 record.
1975: Under new coach Ted Marchibroda the Colts would get off to a 1-4 start after winning their first game at Chicago against the Bears. However, the Colts would start winning as Quarterback Bert Jones and Running Back Lydell Mitchell came of age and led the Colts on a seven game winning streak that had them set up in a showdown at Memorial Stadium for the AFC East with the Miami Dolphins. The game would be a defensive struggle and went into Overtime tied 7-7, when Tony Linhart kicked the Colts into first place. 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 super Steelers in Pittsburgh, suffering a season ending 28-10 loss.
1976: The Colts season was almost derailed before it ever began as a dispute between Owner Robert Irsay and Coach Ted Marchibroda led to a resignation from the popular coach. However, after players threatened mutiny Marchibroda was reinstated. The Colts would go on to have a stellar season led by Quarterback Bert Jones who wins the NFL MVP, by passing for 3,104 yards, as the Colts put together a solid season and win the AFC East with an 11-3 record. However in the Divisional Playoffs the Colts are mauled by the Pittsburgh Steelers again 40-29, despite playing in Baltimore.
1977: After a 9-1 start the Colts lose three 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 third 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, once again the Colts would go home empty handed as the Raiders won it 37-31.
1978: The Colts’ march to a fourth straight AFC East Title was over before it began as Quarterback Bert Jones was injured and the Colts lost their first two 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.
1979: Veteran Quarterback 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.
1980: Bert Jones regains the starting job at Quarterback, and has a solid 3,134 yard passing season. However the Colts would play inconstant football as the defense struggled during an unrewarding 7-9 season.
1981: 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. Following the season Quarterback Bert Jones was 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.
1982: Attendance begins to dwindle at Memorial Stadium as fans get fed up with Colts losing during a season interrupted by a two month strike. Actually the strike provided relief for the Colts, as they possibly avoided one of the worst seasons in NFL history. The Colts were simply awful, during a season, which saw them go winless while tying one game in a nine game season.
1983: With the number one pick in the NFL Draft the Colts select Quarterback John Elway from Stanford. However, Elway refused to go to Baltimore and threatened to play minor league baseball or in the newly formed USFL. Fearful the Colts would get nothing for his rights the Colts trade John Elway to the Denver Broncos, before he ever put on the horseshoed helmet. After starting the season with an overtime win in New England over the Patriots the Colts faced the Broncos in the home opener as Baltimore fans are hostile to Elway. However, fans get to see what they missed when Elway leads a game winning drive in the 4th Quarter. Despite losing out on Elway, and one year suspension for gambling to Quarterback Art Schlichter, the Colts play solid football compiling a 7-9 record. However, attendance lags, as fans continue to disapprove of the way Robert Irsay runs the club.
1984: Little did anyone know on December 18th 1983 the Colts had played their final game in Baltimore. Almost immediately after the season-ending win at Memorial Stadium Colts owner Robert Irsay began talking to other cities about moving the club. On February 13th he toured the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. The Colts also spoke to officials in Phoenix, as the Maryland legislature tried to use eminent domain laws to force the franchise to remain in Maryland. On March 28th Phoenix dropped out of the bidding, as Irsay called up officials in Indiana saying he was on the way. However, he kept the move secret until just after midnight when by cover of darkness on a cold snowy night he used Mayflower moving trucks to pack up the Colts offices, and relocate them in Indianapolis. By the time anyone realized what had happened it was too late to stop. The NFL feeling they could not win in court did not fight the move, as Maryland put up a futile fight before the Colts agreed to support Baltimore getting an expansion team. The city of Baltimore would fail in several attempts at landing a NFL franchise, and even entered the CFL, before landing a new NFL franchise named the Ravens in 1996. However, the Irsay family would not relinquish the name Colts, as they once promised. Many Colt legends were angered by the move including legendary Quarterback Johnny Unitas who refused to acknowledge the franchise for the rest of his life.
When Tom Matte was called upon to move from halfback to quarterback, he needed a cheatsheet of sorts to remember the plays, so the Colts coaches came up with the idea for the playbook wristband. Today playbook wristbands are common, with top NFL quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, and Ben Roethlisberger wearing them for games, but Matte’s was the first in professional football. Matte’s wristband from the December 26, 1965 Western Conference Championship game against the Packers is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
©MMXI Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the National Football League. This site is not affiliated with the Baltimore Coltss or the NFL. This site is maintained for research purposes only.
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Page created on July 5 , 2002. Last updated on November 3, 2011 at 2:15 am ET.