Halfway through the 2015 regular season, my confusion is the only thing that's clear.
A friend asked me yesterday how I'm feeling about the Kansas City Chiefs. I didn't know what to tell him. "You've got to be feeling good after those couple wins," he said. "That defense is really looking solid. And the AFC sucks! Even Peyton looks old!"
My only response: "I guess so."
* * * *
There's a disorientation to this season that I can't quite explain, one that goes beyond the Chiefs' struggles. It's the tension of loving the strategy -- the symphony, really -- of 11 skilled athletes lining up with a single goal of stopping another 11 equally skilled players from accomplishing their goal. The conflict. When the ball is snapped, there's really nothing else like it in sports.
That said, I've heard the other side from other friends conflicted about the violent nature of the game, the constant drama off the field. Ray Rice and Greg Hardy, head trauma and taxpayer-funded stadiums as talking points. Is it okay for me to support the NFL? Do I still love it as much? I do. But I don't. I guess so.
* * * *
The on-field product doesn't help. My expectations this season were all in. I went all in on a brilliant general manager who has, in my opinion, the absolute best approach to building a team through the draft (whether those players hit or not is another matter), yet could also land the impact free agents over other teams (e.g. Sean Smith, Jeremy Maclin). I went all in on the prized head coach with such great experience over the unproven lot turned over year after year by the NFL's dregs.
I went all in on the roster as well. The impact players on offense simply had to diversify the offense enough -- from Jamaal to DAT to Maclin to Kelce. The line had been revamped. The defense, well, that's the main course. DJ, DeVito were back. Berry, too? Amazing. Poe. Tamba. Smith. Good to great role players all around. A seemingly top 5 secondary with so much developmental talent that it could become the NFL's finest. And, of course, perhaps the best defensive player in the NFL: Justin Houston.
We're all too aware of the results. Total implosion against the Broncos (of all teams). An obvious inability to compete against the NFL's best. An inability to also handle the NFL's mediocre. Coaching mistakes left and right. Injuries. An incomprehensible offensive front rotating parts like my son's Lego vehicles.
1-1. How'd the hell did we lose that game?
1-2. This sucks, but it was Aaron Rodgers.
1-3. Okay, okay, this is getting... well, the Bengals are red hot.
1-4. How'd the hell did we lose that game? Redux.
1-5. So if the season ended today, we'd have what draft pick? Also I hate my life.
* * * *
Then the wins. The defense continues to find their mojo and perform well. Sean Smith rounds into form. The younger players continue to develop. DJ continues to impact the middle. The pass rush is consistent. Sutton is using his weapons well. The Steelers? See ya. The Lions? Tamed. Heading into the bye, with the promise of a much-lighter schedule on the back nine (so to speak), the hopes are there once again.
The Chiefs are 3-5. There's no denying the battle, if there is one, is all uphill. But the AFC truly is horrible. It's a total wreck, with few haves and many have nots. A whole division of them down south. The Chiefs, if they play well over the long haul, really have a nice shot at this. Am I still all in?
But those wins. Landry Jones' first career start in Arrowhead Stadium. How much credibility should I give the team for breaking a five-game losing streak there? And if the Lions select the first player in next year's draft, Kansas City's dominant performance in Londontown can be filed under "taking care of business." They were two wins, but were they good wins? Does that matter?
I guess so.