Tony Romo, often criticized and questioned for poor decision making on the field, proved to everyone Sunday, he knows plenty about football. For all the negative memes and social media flack Romo regularly received, maybe retirement will convince the general public that he is after all a smart football mind.
John Madden, Troy Aikman, Phil Simms, the best NFL color commentators in the game would always watch and react, never read and react. On Sunday, Romo did the latter. He treated his analytical work as if he was still playing. Romo prepared for the game and read the defense the way a quarterback would and passed that information along to the viewer.
Romo pointed out formations and pre-snap calls, confidently predicting the play and outcome moments before it would unfold live. It was impressive, entertaining, and perhaps even taught the common viewer a thing or two about the game.
It’s something we’re not used to seeing and something I wonder if he can continue.
Romo was a quarterback as recently as last year and contemplated playing as recently as this past off-season. He’s still sharp and thinks as a quarterback, not just a former quarterback. These are players, coaches, and defenses he’s studied for years. It’s rare to see a player jump straight from the field into the booth, but the benefit we get as fans is Romo’s inside perspective.
Will this prove to be Tony’s career style of broadcasting football games? Can he keep this up for an entire season, or even multiple seasons? What will happen as his playing career becomes more distant and defenses continue to modernize?
It was interesting and exciting to watch. I even found myself rooting for him to be correct on his predictions. If the network encourages Romo to continue down this path of analysis, what happens when he has a bad game? He can’t be right every time….we did see him throw the ball to the wrong team many times during his playing days.
If Tony’s predictions start to go wrong, he’ll quickly be thought of like the local weatherman. I can see the social media memes already.
As a viewer, there are a few qualities I look for in a color commentator. First, the ability to not step on the toes of the play by play announcer, or the game itself. The average NFL game lasts over 3 hours long, yet there are only 11 minutes of action. That’s right, 11 minutes! So please don’t ruin the 11 minutes by talking too much. There are times when those 11 minutes of action need to speak for themselves.
The second quality is a strong voice. Speaking over 70,000 screaming fans isn’t easy, and doing so without letting your voice squeak or crack is even harder.
Third, is to teach the audience something, which is the hardest part of the job. With the wealth of knowledge fans have about their teams, it’s difficult for a national broadcaster seeing the team once per season to provide unique insight.
Romo, however, hit a homerun in his first opportunity. He provided unique analysis that fans were not used to. His read and react approach is risky, edgy, and different. It will be interesting to see if he continues down this path and if other color commentators follow his lead. There’s no question it’s easier to comment on the past, than predict the future.
Will other players that have been retired for 10, 15, 20 years be comfortable calling a game the way Romo did on Sunday? Comfortable or not, if Romo’s style is a hit, and this becomes the new trend, others may be forced to adapt.
Could Romo’s greatest contribution to the game of football be inside of a television booth? Maybe 20 years from now kids will only know Romo as the game’s best analyst, similarly to the way kids of the 90’s knew John Madden for his football game, not his coaching greatness with the Raiders. Whoa…whoa…let’s slow down for a second, we don’t want to sound like a Cowboy fan after a win, it’s just one game!
Maybe Romo will be great, maybe he’ll be average, or maybe 4 weeks from now a team will have a quarterback injury that leads the former Cowboy out of retirement. Only time will tell, but for now, let’s enjoy Tony in week 2!