Long before Jim Harbaugh wore his khaki pants as head coach of the Stanford Cardinal, San Francisco 49ers and Michigan Wolverines, he was one of the bravest quarterbacks to ever put on the Indianapolis Colts. Blue and White.
Every time the passing rush engulfed Harbaugh and hit him, it was not uncommon for him to spit blood on the sidelines.
Jim Harbaugh coughed up blood in a -15 wind chill after a big hit. Harbaugh would stay in the game, the Colts 9-7 defeated the Chiefs 13-3 in the 1995 Divisional Round. pic.twitter.com/ehadTqpDEn
— Trevor Woods (@WoodsFootball) January 15, 2022
He then nonchalantly asked his head coach Ted Marchibroda what the next game was.
This was the game for the intrepid Harbaugh.
He eventually earned the nickname “Captain Comeback” when he wore the Horseshoe from 1994 to 1997.
It was a well-deserved nickname, to say the least.
The Colts ushered in the captain’s comeback era in 1994
Harbaugh signed with the Colts prior to the 1994 NFL season.
In the years leading up to Harbaugh’s acquisition, it looked like Indy was quarterbacking with local hero Jeff George.
Although George has a strong arm, he has clashed with teammates, coaches and fans.
The Colts were a mediocre team that averaged just five wins with George under center from 1990 to 1993.
The Colts, fed up with George’s antics, then dumped him to the Atlanta Falcons in 1993.
Enter Captain Comeback.
Harbaugh originally supported Don Majkowski during the 1994 NFL campaign.
When Majkowski was struggling late in the season, Colts head coach Marchibroda called Harbaugh’s number.
Indy finished 1994 with a mediocre 8-8 win-loss record.
Harbaugh’s 1995 NFL season was one for the ages.
His former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka once called the intrepid Harbaugh “the ultimate competitor.”
Ditka’s assessment was correct.
Although Harbaugh’s 17 touchdowns didn’t exactly blow up the stat sheet in 1995, Harbaugh led by example.
Whenever he broke his nose or badly injured himself, he would just shake it and focus on moving the sticks.
He also established great chemistry with running back Marshall Faulk, wide receivers Sean Dawkins and Floyd Turner, and tight end Ken Dilger.
The Colts snuck into the playoffs with a 9-7 win-loss record in 1995.
Harbaugh led Indy to shocking wins over the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs in their memorable playoff run.
Harbaugh nearly became the first quarterback to lead the Colts to their first Super Bowl since moving to Indianapolis in 1984.
Unfortunately, Indy lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, 20-16.
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) December 24, 2020
Hail Mary of Harbaugh’s desperate last-second pass to wide receiver Aaron Bailey could have changed the fortunes of the franchise forever.
For a moment, it looked like Harbaugh had defied the odds and won a miraculous victory.
Alas, replays showed Bailey – who was swarmed by Steelers defenders – couldn’t hold on to the pigskin.
Although the Colts didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, their unlikely playoff run was one for the ages.
Harbaugh led the Colts to a Wild Card appearance in 1996.
Unfortunately, his lackluster performance in 1997 prompted the Colts to trade him to the Baltimore Ravens the following offseason.
The 3-13 Colts drafted Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning in 1998 and the rest, as they say, was history.
The Harbaugh Colts set the tone for future versions of the team.
With Manning under center, the Colts became a force in the AFC for the better part of a decade.
Although Harbaugh never blew the stat sheet, he was leadership, toughness and resilience personified.
Besides accuracy, these are the characteristics you look for in your franchise quarterback.
Captain Comeback certainly marked the Colts during his short but memorable stint in Circle City.