Well today is the day that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis will hear the owner's appeal of Judge Nelson's earlier ruling in favor of the players and lifting the lockout. But the biggest news regarding the lockout came yesterday when Roger Goodell, key owners, and NFLPA officials wrapped up a two day "secret meeting" in Chicago that might just be the breakthrough that's long been needed.
CBS Sports' Mike Freeman reports that "real progress" was made - though he cautions things could change in an instant. Still, there's some reason to feel optimistic that a deal could be struck by the July 4th holiday weekend.
This labor news was probably the biggest news of the week in the NFL. But still, I have some nuggets to throw out for a little discussion to close out the week.
1. There's a fascinating article on ESPN by "numbers geek" KC Joyner. It's an "Insider" article, however, so you can't just click over and read it. In a nutshell, though, Joyner uses stats to point out that Chad Henne and Mark Sanchez really aren't far apart performance wise despite two drastically different public perceptions.
The key stat Joyner uses to break down both quarterbacks is yards per attempt. In passes of 10 yards or less, Henne bests Sanchez in YPA (6.2 to 5.4). Henne also matches Sanchez in intermediate attempts (passes between 11 and 19 yards). The difference shows up on those deep throws, as Sanchez has had more success than Henne (as if we needed stats to prove it). But the difference isn't all that great, with Mark averaging 10.7 YPA on passes of 20+ yards while Henne sits at 9.1.
The other key metric Joyner uses to compare the two quarterbacks is what he calls "bad decision rate" - defined as "when a quarterback makes a mistake with the ball that leads either to a turnover or a near turnover," such as a dropped interception. Henne's bad decision rate of 1.9% over the last two years is actually in the top 13 in the entire NFL. Sanchez, meanwhile, sits in the bottom six in the league with a 3.6% bad decision rate. In other words, as Joyner describes, makes a bad decision once every 50 throws while Sanchez makes one once every 28.
"In other words, Henne had equal overall YPA production, despite not having a quality vertical threat on his roster. He also accomplished this while making errors at about half of the rate of Sanchez," writes Joyner. "If those figures weren't enough, Henne's Dolphins have beaten Sanchez's Jets three out of the four times they have played in the past two years."
2. The Dolphins are a bottom five NFL organization. Well, that's what FOX Sports' Adam Schein wants us to believe, ranking the Dolphins 28th in the league in his "organizational rankings." Not that these rankings matter at all. But it's an interesting way to see how those outside of Miami feel about the Dolphins. But come on - the Raiders, Browns, Redskins, and Jaguars (just to name a few) are not better run organizations than the Dolphins.
3. Another player notes how different this Dolphins offense will be in 2011. This time it was Brian Hartline, who spoke on Sirius NFL Radio this week. When he was asked about the offense under Brian Daboll, Hartline prefaced his response by noting he was a big fan of Dan Henning. Then he said that "Coach Daboll is definitely opening it up." This is the third or fourth player to say something like this publicly. Hopefully this isn't all talk.
4. Does anyone know who the new Dolphins NFLPA player rep is? Hartline told Sirius NFL Radio that it's actually Brandon Marshall. Surprised? I am. If I'm not mistaken, the Dolphins have gone from having Chad Pennington as player rep, to Ricky Williams, to Marshall. That's what I call going down a slippery slope. Of course, it really doesn't matter at all. At least Brandon is communicating with his teammates because he's essentially been a ghost publicly since "the incident."
5. If the Miami Heat lose this series, then last night's loss will go down as the single greatest choke job in NBA history. I still don't think the Heat will end up losing the series. And if they do win the title, game two's historic choke will be forgotten. But if the Mavs do win the series, then last night's epic collapse won't be lived down until this Heat team does win a title. Seriously. A 15 point lead with 7 minutes left followed by a 22-5 run to close out the game. Unreal.