Tony Romo’s opening two months as an NFL game analyst have gone impossibly smoothly. The former quarterback has bonded with Jim Nantz, garnered wide praise for his insight and become a viral sensation for his genuine reactions and his ability to predict plays before they happen.
And he seems to have the full-throated approval of his boss.
In a piece published Thursday in the Miami Herald, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said Romo had “exceeded our expectations.” Those expectations were presumably pretty hefty to begin with, given that CBS demoted Phil Simms from its No. 1 broadcast team to make room for the newbie Romo.
McManus told the Herald’s Barry Jackson he decided in February 2015, after speaking to Romo at the Super Bowl, that the quarterback had potential to be a star analyst. Now, he can’t stop raving about Romo.
“Tony is ahead of schedule,” McManus said this week. “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.”
McManus’ praise continued and continued:
“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.”
“Each and every game, we give Tony notes on what he did well and what he could do better,” McManus said. “We funnel them all through Jim Rickhoff, our producer. Tony and I talk a lot at the Thursday production meeting and I will give him nuggets on what I think is going well and what could be better. He is a sponge at his craft.”
We have every reason to think CBS’ praise is genuine. Imagine the risk CBS executives took, replacing a known (albeit, oft-criticized) veteran with a total novice. No matter how impressive Romo’s knowledge and ability to communicate was, it was always possible that talent wouldn’t translate to the booth. But not only has Romo been a solid analyst, he has been a star from the start. In a position that fans love to criticize, he has received near-unanimous praise. McManus’ experiment has gone as well as — hell, maybe better than! — anyone could have dreamed.