If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 30 years as a sports addict and a decade studying the media, it’s that being good at sports doesn’t automatically make one a good sports analyst. That’s why I’m confused by the fact CBS is making freshly-retired quarterback Tony Romo the network’s top color commentator, despite the fact Romo has zero experience working in sports media.

Frankly, I think it’s a huge gamble for CBS. The position of lead NFL game analyst is not supposed to be an entry-level job. It wasn’t for Romo’s predecessor, Phil Simms, or Troy Aikman at Fox Sports. And while none of us are privy to what sort of process Romo went through to land that gig, the reality is the job isn’t as easy at it looks. Merely being a former football player with a large following and a good personality won’t cut it.

Just ask network broadcast veteran Bonnie Bernstein…

Viewers don’t typically like A-team broadcasters as is, mainly because network commentators are relatively impartial and a lot of fans perceive impartiality as bias in favor of their team’s opponent. But also, it’s a very difficult job to master because so much is going on at a near-impossible pace and every slip of the tongue is magnified. Just search Simms’ or Aikman’s name during a live broadcast and you’ll see what I mean. 

When Romo’s career was essentially peaking in 2013, Nielsen Sports and E-Poll conducted a survey, published by Forbes, that found Romo to be one of the 10 most disliked athletes in the country. He “appealed” to only 27 percent of Americans, which was just four percent higher than Michael Vick. Now CBS is throwing him in front of a national audience with no margin for error and practically no training.

With that in mind, Romo appears to be set up for failure. Not only is he a widely disliked former Cowboy who will inevitably be called a Dallas homer whenever he works a game involving the Cowboys or any of their many rivals, but those dynamics should be intensified by the fact he hasn’t completely ruled out a return to the field.

Throw in that we have absolutely no evidence that he has the ability to perform well in a role that usually requires reps at lower levels and this could be a broadcasting disaster.

So why is CBS doing this? Probably because this was the only way to lock him up. Fox also was reportedly chasing Romo. And it’s not as though there were a lot of other strong candidates to eventually take over for Simms or Aikman, especially as it looks increasingly unlikely that Peyton Manning will get into the television business.

CBS could grow to regret this. Romo could very well have a bright future in broadcasting or he could bomb or simply come out of retirement. Either of the latter scenarios would leave the network in an awkward position with Simms, who it appears is being demoted.

“It’ll be a trial by fire,” CBS analyst and former quarterback Boomer Esiason told Peter King of The MMQB. “It’s dangerous.”

The dice have been rolled.

[Full disclosure: I freelance as an NFL writer for CBSSports.com]

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at CBSSports.com, Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.

  • This is the jock-domination of the broadcast booth writ as large as it could get. Because the alternative to Simms or Aikman is not “intelligent expert on the game who never played” or “relatively unknown ex-player with brains who worked his way up” or “ex-coach.” It’s More of the Same in the form of Romo.

  • bmfc1

    He’s completely unqualified for the job and yet was given the #1 position. It’s like he’s the President!

  • Keith Ledbetter

    A drunken sailor could replace Phil Simms. He is AWFUL in the broadcast booth.

  • SF

    This story is filled with pure envy.
    And as for Bonnie Bernstein, if you had talent, you would have been in the
    broadcast booth long ago.
    Deal with it.

  • jetsfan

    I disagree with this article. A cadaver could replace Simms and it would be an upgrade. Romo is likable and deserves this opportunity. Simms should have been demoted years ago as he was pro-Patriots and Broncos and biased in favor of various teams and not objective. Romo will be a great commentator and makes me look even more forward to the broadcasts on CBS this year. They better not move Simms to a lower team to ruin that team as I hope Gumbel and Green and Harlan and Gannon are not switched due to Simms as they are also great teams. As for Bernstein, she used to be a sideline reporter at CBS and must have been let go as she is not on the network anymore. So her opinions are not objective, and yours are definitely not, either. Simms was not as good as a Collinsworth or Aikman and hopefully just goes away now.

  • Puffin

    How much booth experience did Don Meredith have before MNF?

    And Bonnie Bernstein isn’t exactly an objective voice here.