The Press-Gazette has the highlights from Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy's recent interview with Pro Football Talk. This paragraph really caught my attention:
That offer included halving the $640 million expense credit the owners had been requesting on top of the $1 billion they already receive, so that the Friday offer was for a $1.32 billion credit. The credit is taken off the top of the approximately $9 billion in league revenues, and the sides split the remainder, with 60 percent going to players salaries.
$9 billion minus $1.32 billion equals $7.68 billion. At 60%, the players would receive $4.6 billion, which is just over 50% of $9 billion. That's basically the 50/50 split the players offered in February, and the end result is almost identical to the previous labor agreement.
Plus, as Peter King points out, there were a bunch of other benefits to the new deal, including a 16 game schedule over the next three seasons. The players would have won on a key point (the 18 game schedule) that I expected them to lose. As Giants owner John Mara said, the NFL owners made "a very substantial offer on that last Friday."
The problem was, after years of negotiating, the owners didn't make their "very substantial offer" until four hours before the deadline was set to expire. Michael Silver wrote about how this process had become personal, the owners were showing up late for crucial last minute meetings, and did they didn't respond to the union's last request for complete financial disclosure in exchange for another extension.
In hindsight, the players walked away from a deal to maintain the status quo, and make it a little better. It all broke down in the end, but the owners should have given them more than four hours to make a decision.
It's really hard to read all these details, and see how close they were to coming to an agreement.