Parity has turned into all-out parody in the NFL in 2015.
Three weeks from the end of the season, barely a third of the league - 11 of 32 teams - has a winning record, and in two divisions (NFC East and AFC South) every team is under .500.
The NFL's official position always has been that this really is good: great competition for playoff spots keeps fan interest up in lots of cities.
How many of you are looking forward to investing your primetime viewing into Lions-Saints on Monday night?
Can you imagine what this all would look like if those who wanted 14 teams in the playoffs, or even 16, ever got their way?
Who besides Carolina, chasing an undefeated season, and New England, trying to reach the Super Bowl for the seventh time in 15 years, fires the imagination?
Arizona is a nice feel-good story. Denver counts on Peyton Manning, so often a playoff disappointment, not only reversing that history but first getting healthy enough to try. Green Bay? Cincinnati? What about those teams inspires real excitement?
This is not a turn-back-the-clock plea, but the combination of free agency, the salary cap and the limits on offseason workouts that inhibit team cohesion, combined with the lack of patience by club owners, have brought the quality of play in the NFL to its lowest level in memory.
A quick trigger inhibits team building. Among the bad teams, Cleveland is on its fourth coach in six years, Buffalo its fifth in seven years, Jacksonville its fourth in five years.
Bill Walsh was 8-24 in his first two seasons with the 49ers. In today's climate, would Walsh have lasted long enough to build his dynasty? Would Joe Gibbs have lasted beyond his first five games with Washington, all of them defeats? Remember, nearly a decade ago when San Diego fired Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season? How did that work out?
The on-field problem, of course, is the lack of quality depth at quarterback. More than ever, a single injury at that position is enough to doom a team, no matter what else it has. Matt Hasselbeck, at age 40, has managed to keep Indianapolis barely afloat, but look what happened to Dallas without Tony Romo. The falloff is so drastic that two teams actually allowed Jimmy Clausen to start a game for them this season.
Hey, you at least have to like his consistency; he completed 23 of 40 passes for the Bears and 23 of 40 for the Ravens. And his next touchdown pass will be his first.
There is no way to really quantify quality of play, of course; it's in the eye of the beholder. And the league loves to tout how it is nearing a record this season for close games, and no question that close games keep a lot of eyeballs glued to their TV sets as they check the point spreads. (Oh, that's right, the NFL opposes gambling. So sorry.)
All the close games, however, do not mean quality games.
We live in a time when everything is supposed to be getting better, from gas mileage to the pixels on our television to the speed of the internet, but old-timers easily can recall the glory days of the '80s in the NFL when there were several dynasties.
From the 1980 season through the 1995 season, 16 Super Bowls were won by the 49ers (5), Redskins (3), Cowboys (3), Giants (2), Raiders (2) and Bears (1). Now, the New England Patriots are clearly the dynasty d'jour, yet only the Giants have won the championship twice in the last decade.
Now, we have gone from teams trying to knock off dynastic opponents to teams trying to avoid the first pick in the draft. It's the new normal. Unfortunately, different does not mean better.
--Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than four decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.