I heard former Colt’s quarterback Bert Jones bellyaching a few years ago that he played for the “forgotten” Colts. He was referring to the 1975, 1976, and 1977 Baltimore Colts football team that won the AFC Eastern Division in each of the years mentioned; however failed to win a single playoff game in that stretch.
When we think of the BALTIMORE Colts, we think of the team made of Johnny Unitas, and Artie Donavan who were part of the 1958 and 1959 championship teams. We also think of Unitas, Curtis, and Macke who were part of the Superbowl five championship team. I was born after the 58 & 59 games, and was ten when they won Superbowl V. I was in high school for the Baltimore Colts of the mid-seventies.
Why do we tend to forget the 1975, 1976, and 1977 Colts? I’ll tell you why. The Colts of the mid seventies were probably the most talented team in NFL history NEVER to win a single playoff game. This team was loaded with studs: Bert Jones, Lydell Mitchell, Roger Carr, Stan White, etc, etc, etc……..But the intangible was coaching.
Ted Marchabroda was a god awful coach. He allowed Bert Jones to run the team, and once declared that the team couldn’t win without him. He allowed Bert to call his own play. The Colt’s offense was more vanilla than the ice cream. Just about each series went like this, run, run pass. Jones had the natural talent but not the head. With good coaching God knows how far the Colts could have gone in those three years. They definitely had the talent to go to the Superbowl.
The Colts went 10-4, 11-3, and 10-4 respectively from 1975-1977. After three god awful seasons where the Colts went 11-31, fans were just happy to make the playoffs in 1975 so there was little disappointment when the team lost 28-10 in Pittsburgh the Saturday after Christmas in 1975
In 1976 the expectations grew higher. The Colts went 11-3 and hosted the same Steelers who beat them a year earlier. But the Colts got embarrassed losing 40-14. The following year the Colts went 10-4 and hosted the defending Superbowl Champions Oakland Raiders. The game was probably one of the most exciting post season games in the history of the NFL. Ted Marcharbroda tried to sit on a three point lead in the third period. The game went into doubleovertime. The Colts lost 37-31 when Kenny Stabler found Steve Casper in the end zone to beat the Colts. It was referred to as the “ghost to the post.”
The Colts went 31-11 from 1975 to 1977. They went 0-3 in the playoffs those three years. The reason this team is forgotten is because the Colt teams from the previous years took advantage of their opportunities. This “forgotten” Colts team, choked when given the opportunity to do great things.