Tony Romo didn’t shock the world when he announced his retirement after last season; the Dallas Cowboys had bounced him in favor of Dak Prescott, and no other situation offered Romo the kind of offensive line protection he would have enjoyed in Dallas. But the news that he’d be taking over as CBS Sports’ No. 1 analyst, alongside Jim Nantz, raised a few eyebrows. Romo? A first-team announcer as a rookie? Really?
Really. Romo made his broadcast debut on Sunday calling the Oakland Raiders-Tennessee Titans game alongside Nantz, and reviews were rapid and positive, even on Twitter, which hates everything. Here’s a representative roundup:
Tony Romo calling out safety blitzes before the snap and pointing out that the Raiders ran on third down to go for it on fourth down.
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) September 10, 2017
As I thought, @tonyromo is excellent in the booth. Energetic, knowledgeable, concise, likeable. And will only get better.
— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) September 10, 2017
Tony Romo is really, really good at this. Incredibly informative and he’s already predicted a few play calls today. Lots of energy.
— Joon Lee (@iamjoonlee) September 10, 2017
Romo calling out audibles before the QBs even see it. Incredible.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 10, 2017
Romo brought enthusiasm to a job that’s all too often treated as Serious Football Business. More to the point, he brought a recent veteran QB’s knowledge of defensive formations and offensive tendencies, which he broke down time and again before the snap.
“Jim, I’ve got $5 this is a run to the left,” he said just before the half, moments before Tennessee’s Derrick Henry did indeed run around the left end.
“What did you see there?” Nantz asked afterward.
“I’ve seen football in the NFL for 14 years,” Romo laughed.
At other points in the game, Romo broke down strategic decisions — demonstrating how teams use one down to set up another, for instance — and breaking down how a quarterback views a blitz-prep defense and takes immediate advantage of mismatches. He showed how flaring four receivers out wide and overwhelming a secondary leads to an overmatched safety and a Derek Carr-to-Seth Roberts fourth-quarter touchdown.
Romo’s eye is sharp and his experience is recent, which makes him an ideal commentator.
Plus, he can shout at the action just like the rest of us:
“This is not an easy job,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said this past week. “Tony coming out of the box is not going to be great. He is a work in progress. But we think he will be good enough to warrant the No. 1 analyst job.”
Sure, there were misses. Figuring out exactly how to fill space with cogent commentary is a tricky dance for any analyst, and Romo’s not there yet. He tended to get a bit enthusiastic without substance, often shouting out a “Wow!” or “Whoa!” at a dramatic moment without following up with analysis. But you know what? We’ll take enthusiasm over dispassionate breakdowns, jock-love fluffing, or curmudgeonly criticism any day of the week, and 14 times on Sundays.
Romo’s day began with a cringeworthy moment: Phil Simms, the guy Romo replaced, greeted him with an icy “How’s that seat feel?”
Simms can be as passive-aggressive angry as he wants, but the truth is the truth: Romo’s already got the seasoned confidence of a veteran broadcaster behind the mic, and he’ll only get better from here.
Tony Romo, ready for his close-up. (Getty)
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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