Stephen A. Smith and Chris Russo debate Tony Romo

Stephen A. Smith looked astounded when his First Take partner Chris “Mad Dog” Russo claimed he wasn’t a fan of Tony Romo the analyst.

During a debate about the Dallas Cowboys Wednesday morning on First Take, Smith noted that he previously said, “Tony Romo is a much better analyst than he was a Dallas Cowboy quarterback…these are facts!”

“I don’t even love him as an analyst, but OK,” Russo bluntly replied. That prompted a perplexing stare from Smith.

“I do love him as analyst,” Smith answered. “I think he’s a great analyst.”

Russo’s negative perception of Romo the analyst should not come as too much of a surprise. Romo is different from most NFL analysts, uniquely calling plays at the line of scrimmage while displaying a lot of enthusiasm behind the mic.

Russo, a notorious sports traditionalist, surely prefers an analyst who compliments the game, rather than Romo’s overabundance of enthusiasm, which can dominate the broadcast at times. But Smith didn’t need to guess or predict Russo’s opinion of Romo. The newly inducted radio Hall-of-Famer has already declared his disdain for the CBS NFL analyst.

“He just never shuts up,” Russo said of Romo during a 2019 rant on his SiriusXM Radio Show. “Poor [Jim] Nantz, he never gets to do anything. It’s just not a conventional broadcast with him. I don’t want an education, I’m not looking for an education. A little of it, a little is not terrible, but I’m not looking for an education. I’m really not. I’m looking for a sit back, couple of hours and enjoy an NFL football game with a little edification from the broadcasting team. That’s all I’m looking for. I’m not looking for a situation where I need hour upon hour, every play broken down for 30 seconds.

“I just don’t need it, and Tony just does not shut up with the games. On and on, I mean, alright, Tony, this guy goes here, he runs here, look at this. ‘They’re gonna run this play now, Jim. JIM, THEY’RE GONNA RUN OFFSIDE TACKLE! I promise you. They’re gonna run this tight end here, he’s gonna go there.’ I mean, oh my God. Tony, PLEASE! Let the game breathe just a little.”

If Smith wasn’t already aware of Russo’s rant on Romo, he can expect more of it this season. “We’ll spend time this season,” Russo told Smith on Wednesday, foreshadowing more Tony Romo debates and complaints on First Take in the coming months.

Fortunately for ESPN, Russo does like Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. So they shouldn’t have to worry about him stomping on the company and ripping their NFL booth, much like he recently did when he ignored the Worldwide Leader’s partnership with UFC in a rant.

[First Take]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to