If you’re a Fox or CBS announcing booth, you can evade large-scale criticism for most of the season. Millions of people are watching the Red Zone Channel, your game isn’t shown to a truly national audience every week, and your game is almost always airing in a nonexclusive window with other games diluting any possible mass scrutiny on your performance.
That’s why the past two Sundays have been interesting as we’ve seen Fox’s new lead booth of Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen get their most prominent and most watched assignments which have aired as part of doubleheaders across from CBS’s more established team of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo.
With NFL fans exclusively tuned into these games, what’s been simmering mostly below the surface all year long has seemingly now boiled over. As noted in countless articles and tweets and our poll with nearly 13,000 votes (one of the highest tallies we’ve had) there seems to be a noted preference for Fox’s Burkhardt and Olsen when compared to Nantz and Romo. A bit surprising, but if you’ve been paying close attention… perhaps it’s not? Let’s dive into that a bit, shall we?
First, Fox did it….
They moved on from Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. They saved a ton of money. They endured a ton of blowback. They scored a college football game via trade that was well-watched and brought in millions of dollars. This wild idea to just move on from a very capable, consistent, and well-liked “A” booth with a decade or so of their broadcasting careers in front of them… actually worked! They knew what they were doing and they knew what they had.
They trusted Burkhardt and more so, Olsen, who was consistent, helpful, steady, and avoided doing too much. Fans just didn’t find much of a reason to not like this booth and honestly, that’s really all fans want – just add value in small doses while not detracting from the broadcast. There is nothing wrong with a lot of singles and doubles and a high batting average.
Tony Romo was great when he started. He prepared his ass off and offered unique insight.
Then he got PAID and validated.
Now he’s kinda mailing it in.
It sucks, but it happens.
Greg Olsen is the best colour guy in the business now.
— Bobby Russon (@BobbyRusson) January 23, 2023
As for CBS, Romo taking over for Phil Simms and quickly ascending and becoming a broadcasting sensation and social media darling was one of the more exciting and unexpected stories this site has covered in our history. The poll result above has very little to do with Jim Nantz, who has long been consistent in his performance across all of the sports he does for CBS. The elephant in the room is that a sizable chunk of fans has soured on Romo over the past year. The question now begs, where is that bottom and what can be done to turn around the trend?
Romo’s addition to CBS was really lightning in a bottle. ESPN tried to recreate it a few years later with Jason Witten, which was most definitely a huge whiff.
NBC thought Drew Brees might be the next Romo. That idea lasted just one season.
ESPN and others chased around Peyton Manning hoping he’d take the plunge into being an announcer. He did not, although he carved his own successful niche with his brother on ESPN’s Monday Night Football ManningCast.
Fox now awaits Tom Brady to retire in yet another attempt to take a well-known and well-liked player and hopes he seamlessly becomes a top analyst in year one. We’ll see!
My big takeaway from yesterday's NFL games is that Greg Olsen is actually the commentator that CBS wants us to think Tony Romo is
— Shiv Ramdas Traing To Rite Buk (@nameshiv) January 30, 2023
Those are examples of networks trying and failing to recreate the Romo magic. Let’s not forget networks courted Romo himself a few years ago and were willing to shatter historical compensation benchmarks to get him (CBS reportedly signed him to a ten-year extension at nearly $180 million deal.) Sketchers, Corona, Michelob, and Subway also threw themselves at RomoMania. Romo became the closest thing to John Madden. a nearly universally well-liked football analyst who elevated your excitement and enjoyment of watching a game.
And here we are a few years later and there is absolutely no doubt that the sentiment has shifted. Romo’s excited comments have become distracting and often more aloof than insightful. He’s often pointing out things that are actually incorrect and at a volume level that is hard to ignore. He’s trying to put exclamation points on everything that happened when nothing really happened. He’s like a power hitter at the end of his career, swinging harder and harder and striking out more and more. Romo has far less home runs than he used to and is noticeably striking out more and more.
Tony his first year broadcasting I thought was the best in the game, came prepared, was literally predicting plays before they happened.
Tony now is just weird nicknames, interrupting Jim, and just overall not adding anything to the experience. Need year 1 romo back https://t.co/ZVsqaAUrZs
— Troy Hermo (@TroyHermo) January 23, 2023
Most have attributed this noted decline to the fact that he’s no longer as in tune with the game as he was when he retired. Tendencies and systems have changed. Most of the players he played with are now gone. His preparedness and ability to pull some insanely insightful needle out of a haystack have faded. It’s like a magician suddenly reverting from being a Vegas performer to your little brother who just got a magic book.
The game has changed but Romo hasn’t. The enthusiasm and positivity that pours out of Romo are now a distraction as good games are regularly mixed with stray observations and distracting tangents. It’s been a quick slide which has been hard to wrap your head around given just how highly regarded Romo was not too long ago. Where does it end? And when does it end given Romo’s massive CBS contract?
Next year, CBS will air the Super Bowl (Romo’s third). If Romo’s analysis, or more specifically fans’ reaction to his analysis, doesn’t change trajectory, you have to wonder just how many Super Bowls Romo will call going forward. (His current contract would have him call one more in 2028). There is a history here as CBS removed Clark Kellogg and Phil Simms from calling championship games in favor of moving them to studio analysts when fan sentiment became too problematic for the network to overcome.
Perhaps Romo will find his form once again and win back fans who have grown annoyed at his wayward and distracting analysis. Alternatively, it’s not hard to see Romo falling down the same trap door his predecessor did. Just like being a starting quarterback, the top job is hard to keep especially when you’re making tens of millions of dollars and your preparation and performance become low-hanging fruit for fans to complain about.