In recent weeks, the NFL-watching world has been championing the work that Fox’s Greg Olsen has been doing during the playoffs, to the point where the general consensus is that the network would be crazy to replace him with the now-retired Tom Brady, $375 million be damned. That kind of celebratory hype for a young NFL broadcaster was reserved exclusively for CBS’s Tony Romo just a couple of years ago. But now, the same folks advocating for Olsen are wondering what in the world went wrong with Romo.
Romo appeared destined to be the next great NFL color commentator thanks to his impressive prognostication skills and ability to get into the mindset of players, earning himself a very hefty payday from CBS. But in the years since, Romo’s stock has been dropping as smart and insightful analysis has been replaced by strange noises, exclamations, weird metaphors, and awkward moments. In less than two years, Romo’s reputation has turned on its axis, with some wondering if CBS is starting to regret that massive contract they’ve locked themselves into.
“I think you’re always evolving,” Romo told The Post. “I mean, some changes are good, some you’re like, ‘Ah, I shouldn’t do that. But I always trial and error a bunch and sometimes it works.
“I mean, the ability to adapt and learn, if you never try to change at all — I just think like the best players in the world aren’t afraid of failure. You’re going to fail all the time, but at the same time, you succeed because of that, as long as you think about it and try to understand how to improve and then go about the process to make that happen, which is work ethic and commitment. But you got to have a plan for it before.”
Despite the criticism, Romo says that he gets enough people coming up to him saying they love the broadcast to make him think he must be doing something right.
“I just think it’s enjoyable to try and be the best you can be, and the only way to do that is sometimes to trial and error, and staying inside the umbrella of what you think that the viewer wants to help them enjoy the show,” Romo said. “You don’t always get it right, but I do think more often than not, just the people that come up to you all the time. I mean, it’s quadruple from my first 2-3 years, of how many people come up to me on the street and want to talk about it and how they loved it and stuff. So it’s really rewarding for that.”
While Romo’s animated outbursts have annoyed many NFL viewers, he continues to see them as a positive aspect of the game-watching experience.
“I just love showing the emotion of that, the fans and just letting them know how big this is to these players, to these coaches,” Romo said. “It’s life-changing for a lot of people. … I just think it’s really enjoyable to kind of share some of that emotion with people. I’m trying to improve and get to a level that people enjoy sometimes once in a while.”
Expressing the right level of emotion is absolutely a core component of any NFL broadcast. Audiences were certainly missing that when Al Michaels and Tony Dungy called the Jacksonville Jaguars’ epic playoff comeback like they were watching paint dry.
But you could make the argument that Romo goes too far in the other direction, letting his excitement get in the way of providing insightful information that gives viewers a context they wouldn’t otherwise get.
Not so coincidentally, that’s something Greg Olsen has specifically said he wants to do in his broadcasts. And while it sounds like Romo is taking things in stride, not many viewers share his enthusiasm at the moment.
Still trying to reconcile how Tony Romo felt like a breath of fresh air when he started announcing, but now I don't enjoy his work at all. Not sure what's different; maybe it's me. But I think this sharp of a shift is unusual. In the meantime, give me all the Greg Olsen.
— scott pianowski (@scott_pianowski) February 1, 2023