Old Colts vs. new Colts: How they stack up

Indianapolis Colts — how would they stack up against Baltimore's Colts?

February 06, 2010|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

If Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts beat the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl on Sunday - they're favored by five points - it's quite likely you'll hear references to the victory being their third Super Bowl trophy.

Of course, around these parts, that kind of statement is about as insulting as it is dishonest. Sure, a team wearing helmets with a blue horseshoe on the side will have won three Super Bowls, but counting Baltimore's 1970 victory over the Dallas Cowboys as part of Indianapolis' total is akin to Gisele Bundchen telling people that Tom Brady's and Bridget Moynahan's son is basically her own. (Which she did, by the way.) Maybe the claim has technical merit, but come on. It's flat-out disrespectful.

Still, as much as people around here have embraced the Ravens, it's always going to be hard for some to look at that blue horseshoe and not feel a mixture of nostalgia and anger.

The Baltimore Colts appeared in two Super Bowls and suited up the best quarterback of that era, John Unitas. The Indianapolis Colts, come Sunday, will have appeared in two Super Bowls and suited up the best quarterback of this era, Peyton Manning.

We're not going to pretend we're even remotely objective here, but it did make us wonder how the two squads might stack up historically. In wins and losses, it's almost a dead heat. Before the Colts moved to Indianapolis, they played in 438 games, winning 230. The Indianapolis Colts will be playing their 438th game Sunday. The Indianapolis Colts have won 230 games, also, meaning they will be one victory ahead if they beat the Saints.

In a fictional showdown between franchises, who would have the edge? It seemed like the right time to do a point-by-point breakdown.

Quarterback
Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning

Baltimore Colts: John Unitas

Analysis: This is a tough one because Manning is, in some ways, the spiritual heir to Unitas. Manning essentially calls his own plays, much as Unitas did, but in this era that's almost unheard of. Each led the league in quarterback rating three times, but Unitas led the league in touchdown passes in four seasons to Manning's three. Manning is probably the funniest athlete ever to host "Saturday Night Live" - the United Way spoof was nothing short of brilliant - but Unitas' buzz cut came to symbolize an entire era. Manning is the more accurate quarterback and threw for more yards, but remember, too, that in Unitas' day you could more or less assault wide receivers downfield and not get flagged. In this era, if you breathe too hard on Reggie Wayne, pass interference will be called. In the end, we're giving the edge to Unitas, for the simple fact that he was a man's man, and a man of the people, whereas Manning is a lovable football nerd who makes commercials for people. During the offseason, you could find John Unitas at Club 4100 drinking a Jack Daniel's Manhattan with a splash of cherry juice (his special creation), looking like Don Draper from "Mad Men." Manning might as well be Sheldon from "The Big Bang Theory."

EDGE: Baltimore

Owner
Indianapolis Colts: Robert Irsay and Jim Irsay

Baltimore Colts: Carroll Rosenbloom and Robert Irsay

Analysis: If this were a title fight, it would probably be a third-round TKO. To be fair, Rosenbloom was in charge when the team either signed or drafted future Hall of Famers such as Unitas, Lenny Moore and Raymond Berry, and when the Colts won the 1958 NFL championship, still considered the greatest game ever played. And he did hire Don Shula, who would go on to win more games than any other coach in NFL history. But he also drove Shula away with complaints that Shula "couldn't win the big one," feuded with the press and the fans, and then essentially treated the franchise like a game of Yankee swap when he gave it to his golfing buddy Bob Irsay in exchange for the Los Angeles Rams. (He wanted to move to California because his wife, Georgia Frontiere, demanded he do so.) But he was still a better owner than Irsay. Irsay was perhaps one of the worst owners in professional sports. He was as cheap as he was dishonest. (Can we even really blame John Elway at this point for not wanting to play for him?) All that makes it that much more remarkable that Jim Irsay, Bob Irsay's son, is now rightfully considered one of the best owners in pro sports. Not only is he a decent and honest businessman, but he's also an extremely interesting person, with a passion for music and literature. It's a shame we couldn't have sped up the plan for family succession by 20 years.

EDGE: Indianapolis

Stadium
Indianapolis Colts: RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium

Baltimore Colts: Memorial Stadium

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