May have been the intent, but they failed. If this was about accountability, then why are you lowballing the refs on money? Why not give them an offer that exceeds their demands AND requires more accountability? Make that public, put pressure on the union.
Because right now I cant tell the difference between an NFL that is trying to make refs more accountable and an NFL that is trying to save a few bucks by low-balling their refs and destroying the quality of their product
They haven't failed anything yet, it's not over. They only fail if they cave in and give the refs what they want. And I'd be willing to bet that if the refs concede the accountability and competition points the league would concede at least more than half way on the money point. Just my opinion though, no "insider info" or anything like that. I'm pretty sure the league's main goal in all this isn't to save $4mil a year, it's the two points I already mentioned as well as not establishing a precedent of giving in when an employee makes demands, which would make them look weak and have much more damaging future ramifications.
On a related note, another bet I'd be willing to make is that given a full year to prepare, and access to those D-1 refs mentioned (by way of them not caring if they lose their NCAA jobs since they'd have full NFL jobs), the game would do fine if none of the currently locked out refs came back at all. Just wouldn't be fine this year. The league has to look at the long term, not the short term.