Tony Romo CBS Jim Nantz Screen grab: CBS

All eyes were on CBS lead NFL analyst Tony Romo for this year’s Super Bowl. After breaking on the scene after his retirement several years ago, Romo was a revelation in the broadcast booth and lauded for his abilities to predict and analyze plays. Over time, those abilities have eroded as Romo has become less connected to the game and more reliant on meaningless enthusiasm and rambling roads to nowhere.

In 2020, Romo signed a ten year contract worth $18 million per year. At the time, it seemed like a necessity for CBS. Romo was the hottest name in sports media and the network couldn’t resist him departing for a rival like ESPN.

Just four years later, the Romo contract now seems like an albatross for the network.

The criticism of Romo has only increased after the Super Bowl. Every broadcaster dreams of being in the booth for a game winning touchdown in overtime at the Super Bowl. But instead of offering something poignant and focused, Romo vomited a word salad of empty calories that spoiled Nantz’s call and took away from the moment.

So what can CBS do about it? The network has reportedly tried interventions about his performance but it hasn’t made a difference. Can CBS afford to let this ride itself out for another six years? Or is there another path forward?

A demotion from a top analyst spot is incredibly rare, especially without an obvious landing spot. Jason Witten returned to the NFL after a tortured spell at ESPN. Drew Brees wasn’t a top analyst, but parted ways with NBC and hasn’t been back in broadcasting since his rough debut season. But CBS actually laid out the perfect blueprint for what to do in this awkward situation when Romo was brought on board originally.

In 2017, Romo replaced longtime lead analyst Phil Simms in the broadcast booth. But instead of letting Simms go entirely, CBS created a spot for him on the NFL Today in the studio. The move worked out well for everyone. Simms had lost touch with viewers in the booth, but provided a solid veteran presence in the studio, where he has been ever since. And Romo was at the time a spectacular hire.

Now CBS finds themselves in a similar position seven years later. The network is already anticipating a huge transition with their NFL Today crew. James Brown is staying as host but almost all of the analysts have their contracts up for renewal.

There is a perfect solution out there for CBS. Move Romo to the studio where his unbridled enthusiasm can be let loose in a more fitting and less restrictive environment. It’s certainly worked for Terry Bradshaw on Fox for the last three decades. Then build around Romo by keeping Nate Burleson and JJ Watt with perhaps another new hire. Finally, acquire Greg Olsen from Fox to partner with Jim Nantz because he would be a huge improvement and deserves to hold on to a top game analyst position with Tom Brady taking his spot at Fox.

That scenario sounds great in theory, of course it would be much more challenging to pull off in reality. But at least it would be a proactive move to address what hasn’t been working for some time now. Whatever it ends up being, it’s clear now that CBS needs to do something with Romo before their next Super Bowl broadcast in February 2028.

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