Tony Romo on CBS Credit: CBS

When Tony Romo began broadcasting on CBS’ lead NFL team in 2017, he drew a lot of praise from the start mixed with some criticism. In the last couple of years, that public ratio seems to have flipped, with much more criticism than praise for Romo in many spheres. That’s included media analysts, radio hosts, and even just social media discussion. But on a NFL on CBS media call Thursday ahead of Super Bowl LVIII, Romo said he believes he still has more fans than detractors, responding to a question from Kevin Draper of The New York Times on criticism by first saying that criticism just comes with time.

“It’s a normal arc of someone’s career,” Romo said. “Honestly, I think a lot of people were rooting against [Patrick] Mahomes because he’s been there. They want to see people new.

“It’s just part of an arc when you do something at a very high level. I think that’s normal. Same thing happens in football. You become dominant at things and then all of a sudden people are like, ‘OK.’ Then at the end, Tiger Woods comes back and everyone roots for you. It’s just a normal arc of a career. It’s not abnormal. It’s absolutely what’s supposed to happen.”

He also said the people who like his work just don’t talk about it all the time.

“Kevin, if you liked our broadcast and you said, ‘Wow, I love Jim Nantz and Tony Romo,’ and you said that on there on your tweet, are you going to keep doing that every week, or would that make you look a little silly?” Romo asked. “I think there’s far more people who I see every single day who come up and love our broadcast and our team and CBS and what we do, and I hear that and feel that. And you can feel it in life. There’s so many people that have said they love us.”

“And so you’re going to have the negative aspects that come in from time to time, but those things are normal. That’s what’s supposed to happen through the arc. I’m telling you, there a lot of people who…if I went on there and sent a tweet out of ‘Hey, do you guys still like us?,’ I think you’d hear about it all over again.”

Romo has some valid points there. Yes, absolutely, the novelty factor can wear off with anyone, including broadcasters. And yes, on social media in particular, there often tends to be more negative than positive commentary about announcers, and yes, negativity is sometimes louder. And that does sometimes build over time, and there’s less reason to say “I still like this guy” than “I like this new guy.” And much of this is similar to the way CBS Sports chair Sean McManus defended Romo to Chris Russo last February:

“An enormous amount of people have come up to me who have said to me, ‘We really like Tony Romo. He’s different. He’s not your typical analyst. He is enthusiastic. He sometimes speaks more of a fan than even an analyst, which I think people like. So I think this is being overplayed.

“Social media, as you know, tends to be very vitriolic and unkind and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And then when the mainstream media watches social media, they start ganging. … Can he get better? We can all get better.”

However, that’s not the entirety of the discussion around Romo. The most notable conversation around him, ahead of those McManus comments last February, was around criticisms from inside the CBS house. That came with Andrew Marchand (then of The New York Post, now of The Athletic) saying on his podcast last February that CBS executives had “tried an intervention” with Romo in the previous offseason, then reporting that this involved separate visits from McManus and lead game producer Jim Rikhoff involving dinner, tape review, and discussions about the broadcast.

CBS spokesperson Jen Sabatelle disputed the “intervention” characterization then and said “We meet regularly with our on-air talent.” But the reporting there was highly unusual to see around a top NFL analyst (or anyone, really). And in comments to Marchand this October, McManus did say “I emphasized the positive and some ways I thought he could be better” (while maintaining that the conversation wasn’t that unusual or unprecedented, and that he’d had similar conversations with other on-air talent before).

Internal criticism, no matter how mild it may or may not have been, is something that actually matters. And external criticism from prominent figures matters a bit too, albeit a little less (but more so than general social media chatter). And Romo has certainly taken plenty of that, with some of it showing up ahead of that Marchand reporting last February, including remarkably harsh comments from former NBC figure Dick Ebersol in October 2022.

And that criticism looked perhaps more apt as time went on with some high-profile blunders. And that’s what’s what led into Marchand bringing up the executive visits. So this isn’t necessarily just a case of natural commentator fatigue.

And on that point, it’s notable that our fan-voted announcer booth rankings have also seen a drop for Romo and play-by-play partner Jim Nantz. They fell from No. 1 in 2018, 2019, and 2020 to No. 4 in 2022 and No. 6 in 2023. However, those rankings provide hope for Romo and Nantz as well; the 2023 top team was ESPN’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, previously sixth, fifth, and sixth in 2018-20 at Fox and third in 2022 at ESPN, and Buck in particular went through a lot of years of heavy criticism and then had critic and fan sentiment swing back in his favor. We’ll see if that happens with Romo. But it’s notable to get some reaction from him on this criticism.

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.