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Throwback Thursday: Colts Coaches in the 1950s

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With training camp and real football still months away, Throwback Thursday jumps into another series. This time, we'll be going through each decade in Colts history and looking at the head coaches during those periods. Obviously, we'll kick things off with the 1950s.

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It's official. We've hit the slowest point in the NFL off-season where free agency is (mostly) over, the draft is over, and training camp hasn't yet begun. Yes OTAs are going on, but that's all the excitement we have.

Today is an exciting football related day for me, though, as I'll find out where I'll be sitting for Iowa State's six home games losses this upcoming season. Of course, on that note my mind instantly jumps to a certain coaching situation all of us with ties to the University have eyes on. And with that, a new idea for a Throwback Thursday series was born.

For the next few weeks, I'll be going through all of the coaches in Colts history, by decade. I originally planned to go by each coach, but that would take forever, and produce some very short articles.

So we'll begin in the 1950s, a decade which saw the Colts become an NFL franchise, and have two head coaches.

Here's a bit of trivia, in case you ever need it, the first head coach in Colts history was Keith Molesworth. Originally from Washington, Iowa (a place I just so happen to recruit in), Molesworth never became a starter in high school football due to his small frame.

At Monmouth College, though, Molesworth received 12 varsity letters and (in 1984) was elected to Monmouth's athletic Hall of Fame. Molesworth would also play quarterback for the Chicago Bears for seven seasons, winning two titles.

As a coach, Molesworth began his career as a backfield coach at Navy, as well as other minor league teams. In 1952 he broke through and was hired as backfield coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a year later was hired as head coach of the Baltimore Colts.

The Colts were definitely not a great team under Molesworth, but weren't terrible either. Despite a 3-9 record, the Colts actually led the NFL in takeaways with 56. In fact, the team started the season 3-2 before dropping their final seven games. Even though the team went 3-9, the Colts still did not finish last in the Western Conference. That dubious distinction was held by the Green Bay Packers, finishing at 2-9-1.

After one year, Molesworth was replaced as head coach of the Colts. However, he remained with the team as Vice President and Director of Personnel until his death in 1966.

The man who replaced Molesworth would remain the Colts head coach through the remainder of the 1950s. That man, of course, was Weeb Ewbank.

Ewbank actually grew up in Indiana, but attended Miami University (Ohio). Like Molesworth, Ewbank was a quarterback while at Miami, and also started on the basketball and baseball teams.

After graduation, Ewbank became the head football coach at Van Wert HS in Ohio, but left after two years to be the head coach at McGuffey HS in Oxford, OH. At McGuffey, Ewbank left his mark as a fantastic coach. In 13 seasons he amassed a record of 71-21. For three straight years, McGuffey went undefeated and, in 1936, shut-out every opponent.

Ewbank would then join the army where, at a naval base in Chicago, he would run into the man who replaced him as quarterback at Miami, and who was coaching the base football team: Paul Brown.

After WWII Ewbank became the backfield coach at Brown University, where he was (for two years) the position coach for quarterback Joe Paterno. After a brief stop as Brown, Ewbank became the head coach at Washington University in St. Louis, totaling a 14-4 record in two years.

In 1949, Ewbank made the jump to the AAFC to become an assistant under Brown in Cleveland. After a successful run in the AAFC and the NFL with the Browns, Ewbank agreed to become the next head coach of the Colts in 1954. However, the move was blocked by Brown who insisted that Ewbank was passing along the Browns draft targets to the Colts.

Ewbank was forced to remain with Cleveland through the 1954 draft, but still allegedly leaked some information to the Colts about players the Browns were high on, specifically Raymond Berry.

Once becoming the coach, Ewbank wasn't able to find quick success in Baltimore like he had at his other stops. The Colts again finished 3-9 in 1954, and only improved to 5-6-1 the following year. The 1956 season wasn't much better from a record standpoint, as the team went 5-7, and fans called for Ewbank to be fired.

However, Ewbank had begun building his core group of players in the 1956 off-season. The team signed a young quarterback by the name of John Unitas, and an older veteran to groom him named Otto Graham. Additionally, Lenny Moore and Alan Ameche (in 1955) had been added to the team's backfield. Ameche and Moore were named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1955 and 1956, respectively.

In 1957, Ewbank guided the Colts to their first winning record in franchise history, going 7-5. Then in 1958 the team took off. The Colts improved to 9-3 and reached the NFL Title Game where they defeated the New York (football) Giants in overtime. In 1959, the Colts again finished 9-3 and again reached the Title Game where they would again be facing the Giants. This time the Colts didn't need overtime, as they easily dispatched the Giants to win their second straight title.

In the seven years the team existed in the 50s, Ewbank and Molesworth amassed a record of 41-42-1, and two world titles. Ewbank was also named coach of the year in 1958.

Despite only coaching the Colts for one season, it's clear that Molesworth also had a strong hand in the make-up of the 1950s Colts due to his front office duties. These two men helped to transform the Colts from an expansion loser to a world champion in less than 10 years.

Next week Throwback Thursday will be jumping into the 1960s where we'll be looking at Ewbank some more, as well as his successor Don Shula.