Nearly a week after the stunning (but not entirely unexpected news) that Tony Romo will stop playing (but not “retire” from) football to become only the fifth lead NFL analyst in CBS history, a very good question has emerged about Romo’s transition. And, like many things that make perfect sense, this one will never happen.
But it’s worth pondering, given the potential benefit it would have for Romo the broadcaster. Richard Deitsch of SI.com suggests that, for 2017, Romo should be the No. 2 analyst at CBS.
Deitsch argues as a threshold matter that Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts already do a better job than Jim Nantz and Phil Simms did. Apart from that, Romo would benefit from getting his initial reps on a platform with a lower profile.
“Romo has zero network broadcasting experience,” Deitsch writes. “That means he will be learning the mechanics of broadcasting on the fly while doing the network’s most significant NFL game every week. That’s a high-wire tightrope to walk no matter how bright or prepared you are in an era where social media opinions about broadcasters are impossible to ignore (CBS Sports management was well aware of the vitriol toward Mike Carey, and I believe it impacted their decision to not bring him back). Not only does Romo have a full Sunday schedule, but he will also be assigned five Thursday Night games. That’s a tough grind even for an experienced broadcaster, given the preparation and travel it requires.”
He’s right, but as Deitsch acknowledges it won’t ever happen. For starters, Nantz wouldn’t accept being knocked down to the No. 2 team, so at most it would be Nantz and Fouts on the top unit, w`ith Eagle and Romo spending a year together. Which also doesn’t make much sense, because just as Romo would be getting comfortable with Eagle, Romo would have to go back to square one with Nantz.
Also, CBS had to make Romo an offer he couldn’t refuse. A chance to be No. 1 in 2018 after serving a season as No. 2 may not have gotten Romo to give up football. Giving him the top spot did.
That’s where it becomes tempting to wonder aloud about the behind-the-scenes machinations that could have consisted of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones lobbying CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus about the value of replacing Simms with Romo. It could have easily been sold as a win-win; CBS gets a better analyst who can do the job for two or three full decades, and Jones doesn’t have to worry about Romo playing for (and thriving with) the Texans or anyone else.
And make no mistake about it. Jones didn’t want the coverage of his team to be diluted in Dallas by writers and broadcasters who become obsessed with Romo’s exploits elsewhere. If the Cowboys were to stumble in 2017 and if the Romo-led Texans were to thrive, the Texans could have supplanted America’s Team in its own hometown.
If that’s what happened, it explains plenty. From the one-day-he’s-getting-released-next-day-he-isn’t of a month ago to the one-day-other-teams-can-bring-him-in-for-a-visit-next-day-he’s-retired of a week ago, the inconsistencies suggest the absence of a plan but the end result became the best possible short-term outcome for Jones — and the best possible long-term outcome for Romo.
To make it happen, CBS had to offer Romo the No. 1 spot right now. Once it did, Romo couldn’t say no. Which surely had Jones discreetly pumping a fist and quietly muttering, “Yes.”