The Worst Teams of All Time, Part 4: The 1991 Indianapolis Colts

This is a post in an ongoing series, where we examine and poke fun at some of the most ghastly teams ever to take the field.

Nowadays, the Colts are a very successful franchise that is stable and is a perennial playoff contender. Things didn’t used to be this way. In the 1980s and 1990s, and in 1991, Indianapolis was the biggest joke in sports.

Indianapolis tumbled from a 7-9 record in 1990 to go 1-15 in 1991, primarily thanks to poor ownership of the team and a feisty division.

Robert Irsay

“Old Man Irsay” blowing his top at the press, as usual.

Robert Irsay was the owner of the Colts at the time, and was an absolute laughing stock. The name alone causes riots in Baltimore, they say. After gutting the team in the early 1980s in hopes that playing mistake-prone, horrific football would entice fans to shell out millions upon millions of dollars to build a new stadium, Irsay moved the team to Indianapolis in 1984 and the bad fortunes continued. In their first three years in Indy, the Colts only won 12 games. In 1990, they made hometown hero Jeff George their No.1 overall draft choice.

Jeff George 2

Jeff George was a jerk to fans and the city, as well as being a crappy NFL quarterback.

George had an incredibly strong arm and lots of potential, but anywhere he went over his career (one that spanned both conferences and 9 teams), he caused turmoil and fights with either the play-caller or authority figure. He often mocked the fans and the city, and was generally just arrogant and nasty. He had a mediocre rookie season at best in 1990, and in 1991 he was a great contributer to the Colts’ demise. George started all the games for the Colts in 1991, but only won 1.

He finished the year with a 73.8 rating, 2,910 yards, a 10 TD – 12 INT ratio, and a 60.2% completion rate. But two stats killed the Colts: 5.3 yards per adjusted pass attempt, and 56 sacks. And George managed to do this against one of the easiest defensive schedules in the league.

Football Outsiders calculates that the Colts had the worst offense in the first quarter of games and second half of close games, as well as having the worst defense in second half of close games. On top of this, FO’s recent DVOA 7.0 calculation system found that the 1991 Colts, play-for-play, had the worst rushing attack of any team in the DVOA era. (1989-present) Furthermore, using the same stat-calculating system, Indianapolis comes out with 0.0 estimated wins in 1991.

The other half to the puzzle of futility was Eric Dickerson. You wonder, “Dickerson is a Hall of Fame player, how could he make the team so bad?” Well, Dickerson was beginning to taper off in his career, as 1991 was the year he finally stopped producing. The team acquired him in 1987 in a stunning mid-season trade, and his production was fantastic for the first few years. In 1991, he finally fell off the cliff.

eric Dickers

Dickerson trying to run away from Indianapolis. The question being, could his gimpy legs carry him far enough away?

Dickerson was the leading rusher on the team, but that says nothing about how his numbers were. Dickerson finished 1991 with 167 attempts for 536 yards, a 3.2 yards-per-carry average. He only scored 2 touchdowns (the team scored 3 rushing touchdowns in total), but managed to fumble the ball 6 times, putting the defense in poor spots constantly.

In all, these two formed the dreadful duo, the Twin Terrors. Because of this, the Colts only scored 143 points all season, the lowest for a 16 game season up to that point, and what is still the second lowest all time. The Colts were shut out twice, and only scored more than a touchdown 5 times. Their only win came in Week 11 in New York, where they beat the 8-8 Jets by a single point. They failed to score a touchdown in 9 games.

In all, 1991 was far and away the worst year in Colts history, and in 1992 they miraculously made the playoffs with a 9-7 record, but in 1993 they turned back into Indianapolis again and finished with a 4-12 mark.

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