Most thought when the Dallas Cowboys gave Tony Romo his outright release it meant he would find another home to play quarterback. Despite all the injuries he had suffered in his career, it was generally accepted that he had plenty left in the tank. When Romo is on the field, he plays at a Pro Bowl level and there are plenty of teams missing that.
So when news broke that Romo would be replacing Phil Simms as CBS’ color commentator for their No. 1 crew with Jim Nantz, despite having exactly zero broadcasting experience, it was met with some criticism to say the least. Most wondered how Romo could pass up the color guys that had been doing it for years with CBS.
If you haven’t watched a game called by Nantz and Romo this season, you’re missing out. Romo is everything you would want from a color guy. He provides insight like few before him and can dissect plays before they happen. Romo calling out exactly what’s going to happen on a play presnap has become something of an internet sensation.
WATCH: Tony Romo continues to call plays before they happen!pic.twitter.com/GLEnYX7EAs
— Gradick Sports (@GradickSports) September 17, 2017
— Sports Degens (@TheSportsDegens) October 2, 2017
What has been clear from day one with Romo is he loves football. He calls games with an excitable enthusiasm that every fan watching the game has. He is relatable, but he also provides incredible insights into the game that only a player of his caliber could bring. He spent years as a hard-working guy that put in the time and effort to hone his craft and that has translated to Tony Romo the broadcaster.
“I know how to get ready for a football game,” Romo told Sports Illustrated. “I always knew how to prepare. Preparation for this has not been hard—I love doing it. What it comes down to is, I think about the game a lot. Even when I was playing, I was trying to figure the game out.”
His acumen for reading defenses was maybe never more evident than in the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders Thursday Night Football affair. The text of which is broken down in the Sports Illustrated article linked above. Here is the entire call:
“It’s the game. Fourth-and-11. I suspect Kansas City’s gonna run what they like to do, which is to rush three … at the most four, play two-man super-wide. [The two safeties deep, playing wide to try to limit the throws Derek Carr can make to either sideline.] You [the Raiders] gotta go to the middle of the field.”
Pause. Slight chuckle, looking at the Chiefs’ front. “They don’t pressure here, do they? First time all game?” Carr calling signals from the shotgun. Safeties very wide, outside each hashmark. “It’s man-to-man. Two high guys [safeties].”
Romo telestrates in yellow how wide the safeties are. Then he draws a circle around the middle of the field, with the center right around the 31-yard line—where the Raiders must reach for the first down. The area is empty. Totally devoid of Chiefs.
“The area to throw to is right here in the middle!” Romo says, voice rising to the importance of the game, the season, for Oakland.
The amount of time it takes to go from “They don’t pressure here, do they?” to “The area to throw to is right here in the middle!”: 7.34 seconds.
Jim Nantz: “Here we go, everything on the line …” Carr throws to Jared Cook, right where the center of that Romo circle was. Right there. Nantz: “Right at the spot, Tony!” Gain of 13. First down, Oakland.
Romo: “They need to attack that every time on each play with different plays right there … Then, as soon as that safety comes down, you take your shot outside the numbers.”
Ever the humble man, raised by a father in the Navy in Wisconsin, Romo doesn’t feel he deserves all the praise he is getting for predicting plays before they happen.
“I don’t think I do it that often. I know the viral sensation of the world we live in, with social media everywhere. But I only do it maybe three times a game. I’m just trying to think along with the game, to say what I see. It comes down to years of experience, knowing the defense as well as the offense. It’s been natural for me to feel what the quarterback is thinking and feeling at the moment.”
“As far as what I say … I want people to feel when the game’s on the line how important the play is. It’s like, you’re at dinner or in the bar with your buddy, and you look up at the game on TV and say, ‘You gotta see this!’ That’s the way I want do the games.”
Romo hasn’t only been successful by the standards of social media either. His bosses at CBS are loving the decision to put him on their top crew.
“He has exceeded our expectations,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus told the Miami Herald. “This is a really hard job.”
“Tony is ahead of schedule. I still think there is a lot of upside there. What I’m pleased with is the chemistry between Jim Nantz and Tony. It’s easy going. It’s listenable.”
“You really learn a lot by listening to Tony. You learn about defensive schemes, strategy, clock management. That’s a key barometer of how successful an analyst is – how much the viewer is learning and how much he’s talking about the why and not just the what and advancing the storyline and what teams need to do strategically.”
“I think one of the best elements of Tony’s work is the fact he’s so enthusiastic and has such a passion for the game,” McManus said. “That’s something you can’t learn and can’t teach. Enthusiasm and passion are two key qualities. You get the feeling listening to Tony he’s having a very good time watching these games. It’s like sitting on your couch with an expert and him explaining what’s going on. He has a lot of excitement on big plays but not to the point it becomes overbearing.”
“A lot of things he’s doing are things you can’t teach. They are qualities we sensed when we met with him before we hired him. It’s all come through even more than we thought.”
There is a lot to love about Tony Romo the broadcaster. Amidst a tough three-game losing streak where Dak Prescott has struggled, it’s hard not to wonder if the Cowboys thought about giving Romo a call. He doesn’t seem in any hurry to get back in the huddle, and that is a comforting thought for football watchers everywhere.