The Indianapolis Colts were the surprise team of the NFL last season, going 11-5 and making the playoffs, just a year removed from only winning two games. The turnaround was thanks to QB Andrew Luck, who could be the next great quarterback in the NFL.
A franchise rich in history, the Indianapolis Colts are a team that can widely be considered the envy of the NFL. From Johnny Unitas to Peyton Manning, leadership has always personified the team and brought them to championship level.
The Indianapolis Colts franchise roots are located in Baltimore, a city the team called home for 31 years. In 1953, Baltimore was awarded the new franchise on the condition that they could sell 15,000 season tickets within a six-week period. They accomplished it within four weeks, and the Colts franchise was born.
The Colts hired Weeb Ewbank in 1954 to build their franchise into a winner. It took until 1957 to produce a winning record, but in the 14 seasons following the team never finished with a losing record. During that time the Colts were led by star quarterback Johnny Unitas, a player that the Colts signed off the streets of Pittsburgh who was playing semi pro football for $6 a game at the time. But after getting his shot to play, Unitas became an all-time great, playing for the Colts for 17 great seasons.
Over their history in Baltimore, the Colts were involved in two of the most influential games in the history of the NFL. In 1958, the Colts squared off with the New York Giants in front of the largest television audience to that point. It is said that the game did a lot to increase the popularity of the sport and the NFL. The game ended as Unitas led a game-winning drive to win the title, 23-17. 1968 brought another game that lives in NFL lore, when New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed a victory in Super Bowl III over the Colts. The game helped to bring respect to the AFL as a league, as the AFL's Jets upset the NFL's heavily favored Colts.
In 1984, owner Robert Irsay moved the team out of Baltimore and into Indianapolis, where they then became known as the Indianapolis Colts. After their move the franchise did not experience championship level success, until 1998 when the Indianapolis Colts had the first pick in the NFL Draft. They selected Peyton Manning, a celebrated QB out of Tennessee with a strong NFL pedigree. Since then he has helped lead the Indianapolis Colts back to being among the elite teams in the league. It culminated in 2006, as he and his supporting cast of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne led the Indianapolis Colts to their first championship in 36 years.
Following a disappointing 2011 season, the Colts decided to let Manning leave the franchise and start a new era in the organization. That new era will be built around another quarterback picked #1 overall, Andrew Luck. Pretty much all NFL experts agree that Luck is the next big thing in the NFL, but only time will tell.