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Throwback Thursday: Colts Coaches in the 1990s

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After a long run of mostly disappointing seasons in the 1970s and 1980s, the Colts turned the corner in the 1990s. While the start of the decade was iffy, the team saw more stability at the coaching position, and slowly saw the team improve.

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After a week hiatus from Throwback Thursday, I'm back this week to continue our saga on the history of the Colts coaches.

In the two previous throwbacks, we reviewed the disasters that were the 1970s and the 1980s. While the Colts did find some success in both decades, there was hardly any consistency both to the play on the field, and to the coaching.

The 1990s again saw a little bit of both success and inconsistency. However, for the first time since really the 1960s, the team leaned slightly more toward success.

The decade didn't start out successful though.

Two weeks ago we left the team, and the 80s, with Ron Meyer. Today, we pick up with Meyer and the Colts in 1990.

Meyer began the decade with the 1990 draft, and traded up to the first overall pick in order to draft hometown quarterback Jeff George. As most of you are keenly aware, the pick did not pan out. The Colts finished the 1990 season 7-9.

Things got worse in 1991, though, as Meyer's Colts began the season 0-5. Meyer was fired and replaced by Rick Venturi.

After the Colts, Meyer would only hold two more coaching positions in his career. One with the Las Vegas Posse of the CFL, and one with the Chicago Enforcers of the short-lived XFL. Not a great last two jobs.

Venturi, however, had been a career assistant and had been working with the Colts since 1982. His stint as interim head coach, however, didn't go too well. In the remaining 11 games of the season the team went 1-10 under Venturi's guidance.

Needless to say, Venturi's services were not retained after 1991. He would continue to remain as assistant coach for various teams, and would again serve as an interim head coach with the Saints in the late 1990s.

The Colts then turned to Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator, and former Baltimore Colts coach Ted Marchibroda.

In his first season at the helm in Indianapolis, Marchibroda coached the team to a 9-7 record as the team improved by eight games and narrowly missed the playoffs. However, 1993 was a different story. The team slipped back to a dismal 4-12.

That slip, however, allowed the Colts to be able to select the 1994 Offensive Rookie of the Year Marshall Faulk. In Faulk, the Colts finally had a legitimate weapon on offense. The team lacked a quarterback, though.

Then 1995 happened. One of the most memorable seasons in Colts history was defined by the word "comeback." The team came back from numerous second half deficits in no small part due to the effort of Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh would also end up becoming the first (and only) Colts player to receive the Comeback Player of the Year award.

The team returned to the playoffs for the first time since the late 1980s. To top that off, the team defeated both the defending AFC champion Chargers, and the top seeded Chiefs. Notching the first playoff wins for the franchise since the 1970s. However, the team's magical run was stopped in Pittsburgh in the AFC Title game.

After that great run, Marchibroda again left the team. He left to again become the head coach in Baltimore, this time to become the coach of the Baltimore Browns Ravens. Before leaving, it was known that his replacement would be former Green Bay Packers head coach, and current Colts offensive coordinator, Lindy Infante.

In previous positions, Infante's offenses were known for their firepower. The 1981 Bengals and the 86-87 Browns had some of the best offenses in football, and Infante was the OC for both teams.

As a head coach in Green Bay, Infante saw some success, included a 10-6 season which saw him named Coach of the Year, but more failure than anything else. In 1992, he was fired by Ron Wolf and replaced by Mike Holmgren.

Infante lasted two seasons and the Colts head coach. In 1996, the team again reached the playoffs, and were again eliminated by the Steelers.

The next season, the team started 0-10 before finishing 3-13. I always love to note the Colts first win came against the defending champion Packers (who would again represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in 1997). But Infante was fired after the season and would not coach again.

The 1998 off-season brought about a changing of the guard for the team. Bill Polian was hired as the General Manager, the Colts held the top pick in the draft, and they hired former Saints head coach Jim Mora.

Mora got on the coaching map as an assistant coach in New England, under Meyer. He was then hired to be the head coach of the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars of the USFL. In three years as the Stars' coach, Mora compiled a 48-13-1 record and appeared in all three USFL title games, winning two of them. His coaching in the USFL led to Mora being hired as the Saints coach.

Mora's first season with the franchise was oddly one of the best in team history as the Saints finished 7-9 (no that isn't a typo). In his second season, the Saints tallied their first winning season in franchise history by going 12-3, but were blown out in the first round of the playoffs by the Minnesota Vikings.

The Saints would return to the playoffs three more times under Mora, but would lose all three. In fact, despite very good regular season records, the Saints only won their division once, in large part due to the presence of the San Francisco 49ers.

During the 1996 season, Mora resigned as coach and was replaced by, you guessed it, Venturi. Small world. At this point in time, Mora is still the winningest coach in Saints history.

In 1998 Mora was hired by the Colts to take over a team which had just finished with the worst record in football, but had just drafted some quarterback out of Tennessee.

Mora's first season was no better, as the Colts again went 3-13 in 1998. However, the signs for improvement were there.

The 1999 season ended the decade on a high note for the Colts. Mora and Peyton Manning orchestrated a 10 game turnaround as the Colts went from 3-13 to 13-3. The team won the AFC East, but were not the top seed in the AFC (Jacksonville finished 14-2). However, the Colts were again eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, bringing Mora's playoff record to a dismal 0-5.

By the end of the 90s the Colts were a team on the rise. They had an established head coach, an emerging star at quarterback, and had just finished with their best record since winning the Super Bowl in 1970.

The future looked bright as the team shifted into the new millennium.