A landscape version of Tony Romo's CBS headshot. (John Paul Filo/CBS.) Tony Romo Lead NFL on CBS Analyst; Photo Cr.: John Paul Filo/CBS ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

NFL on CBS analyst Tony Romo is apparently also adding media criticism to his lineup of duties.

After a widely-lauded start to his broadcasting career beginning in 2017, Romo faced more blowback than he had previously for his work last year, with it showing up everywhere from social media to this site and other industry publications to comments from former NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol and current Fox Sports personality Colin Cowherd.

Romo has addressed that criticism a lot, and has generally taken it with a reasonable “You can’t please anyone” response, but he amped that up this week with comments to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic that suggested the criticism is agenda-based:

A few key quotes from there:

“People come to me now and say they love our crew, they love how we do it,” Romo said. “Like anything, we’ve (the CBS crew) been at such a high level doing this for so long that it doesn’t matter who you are, people are not going to continually write the same article about how great you are. I mean, you wouldn’t do that. You’re not going to continually write, ‘They are the best,’ over and over again. They might still think it, but people have to find things to write. I think that’s just part of human nature.

“And guess what? There’s agendas. People like clicks. I mean, that’s a real thing. And I think they should. I think it’s all a positive. Talking about it, it helps all of the NFL. Our job is to go out there and perform like we’ve done and try to always do our best. I think we’ve done a great job with that. You’re looking at a very talented group here. Like all things, we’re going to go and try to put our best foot forward.”

Romo is certainly not wrong that “people like clicks,” and that many decisions at many sports sites are made on that basis. But that line of discussion is missing some of the point.

If criticism of Romo was completely about pageviews rather than his performance, much more of it would have shown up earlier. “People are not going to continually write the same article about how great you are” was just as true in 2020 and 2021 as it was in 2022, as was any discussion of “people like clicks.”

Last year also saw reports that CBS “tried an intervention” with Romo last offseason, and while the network referred to that as a “mischaracterization,” they didn’t dispute their executives’ visits with Romo. So there were some changes there.

The commentary from Romo here has some similarities to Stephen A. Smith’s recent ranting about comments from Dan Le Batard and others. Yes, to some degree, both figures have a point; not all of their criticism of them is honest, unbiased, or fair compared to what gets lobbed (or not lobbed) at other commentators and programs. But ascribing criticism fully to a media agenda is also not really fair; in most cases, that criticism is not starting from thin air or a premise of “X should be attacked,” but rather from the legitimate complaints out there about a person or network. And the “clicks” criticism really misses that point; the reason any of that works (to whatever level it does) for “clicks” is that fans are interested in the premise. If Romo was indisputably and unilaterally good, there wouldn’t be rewards for criticizing him.

Romo is of course free to feel how he likes about the criticism he gets. And if it helps him sleep at night, he can chalk it all up to “agendas” and “clicks.” But there’s significant evidence out there that a lot of the criticism he has received is not really about starting agendas, and is not profitable or click-driving in its own right (some of it may benefit there eventually once that’s an established narrative, but that’s different from it being worthwhile to establish the narrative), and comes around even some internal discussions on and with him, “mischaracterized” as they may be.

Other analysts have tried to blame the media for their own shortcomings in the past, including Jason Witten. It didn’t work out for Witten; we’ll see if it does for Romo.

[The Athletic]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.