‘I’m just trying to be a guy who is learning and improving every year’: Tony Romo on outside criticism
Tony Romo discusses how he handles outside criticism, whether it be on the field or in the booth.
Burlington High School alumnus Tony Romo may not have played in a Super Bowl during his playing career with the Dallas Cowboys, but he’s now been in the booth for three national broadcasts, as was the case Sunday in Super Bowl LVIII.
The national impression of Romo, however, has shifted from five years ago, when he and Jim Nantz called a 13-3 win for the Patriots over the Rams. In that game, Romo received praise as one of the broadcast’s bright spots, nor even three years ago, when Nantz and Romo called a 31-9 win for the Buccaneers over Kansas City.
Romo, who’s been calling games since 2017 and renewed his contract for $180 million over 10 years in 2020, isn’t quite the broadcasting darling he was when his career in the booth began.
Here’s a look at some of the reaction to his work in the Super Bowl thriller between the Chiefs and 49ers.
Tony Romo stepped on Jim Nantz’s call of game-winning touchdown
Sports-media guru Andrew Marchand of The Athletic wrote that Romo spoke too long in overtime trying to explain the new playoff format.
“At first, Romo did a fine job with the Chiefs down three points and inside the 5-yard line late in overtime, explaining that it did not matter as viewers watched the clock wind down toward zero — the game would not end and would just roll into a second quarter of OT,” Marchand wrote. “But Romo kept talking too long.
“This blocked Nantz from properly setting up the final play. As the winning touchdown was scored, Nantz said, ‘First and goal, Mahomes flings it! It’s there! Hardman! Jackpot! Kansas City!'”
Romo’s explanation that followed also perhaps lingered too long.
“This was the Andy Reid special we talked about he was saving all day,” Romo said. “He’s gonna fake a motion to go across and at that moment he turns and goes back — [Mecole] Hardman, who they didn’t have, right? And they go get Hardman and bring him back. And the game-winning drive of Mahomes’s career he’s been waiting for. He’s won Super Bowls, but he’s never had it. And in overtime. He is the best. He is the standard. The Michael Jordan wins it again.”
Marchand continued with his review.
“Meanwhile, Romo lacks consistency in his thoughts. With 10 seconds left in regulation and the Chiefs at the 49ers’ 11, Romo said, ‘If you have six seconds, you feel comfortable taking another crack at it.’
“After an incomplete pass, there were six seconds left, and Romo opined, ‘If he had seven, I’d do it,’ adding Kansas City should kick.”
Cindy Boren of The Washington Post also was critical of Romo’s late-game call.
“Romo chattered as Nantz made the call and, when Nantz finished, Romo went into analysis mode as CBS showed reaction shots,” she wrote. “Rather than letting images tell the story, Romo was focused on the game-winning play, and Hardman’s return to the Chiefs after starting the season with the New York Jets.”
Later, she wrote, “As it was much of the season, social media criticism of Romo’s performance was intense, a marked turnabout from the adoration the analyst received five years ago for predicting a series of plays between the Chiefs and New England Patriots in the AFC championship game. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said then that Romo was the greatest announcer he had ever seen; the New Yorker called him “a genius.” At that year’s Super Bowl, only Tom Brady was a bigger star and CBS raised his salary from $3 million to $17 million.
“In the week leading up to Super Bowl LVIII, Romo acknowledged that things are rockier now. Asked by a reporter how he deals with a more critical evaluation of his work, he answered, ‘I was the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. This is small potatoes.'”
Did Tony Romo hint that he wasn’t clear on overtime rules, as well?
Jimmy Traina of Sports Illustrated weighed in as well, noting Romo’s words when the 49ers failed on third down from the 9-yard line in overtime.
“I want you to watch, Jim, this is for the Super Bowl,” Romo said. “Because Chris Jones comes through. Watch on the bottom. Jennings wins for the Super Bowl right down there, but there’s no time because Chris Jones does it again.”
Wrote Traina, “But it wasn’t for the Super Bowl because the Chiefs were going to get the ball even if the Niners scored a touchdown there.
“Maybe Romo meant a Jennings touchdown would’ve been for the Super Bowl if the Chiefs don’t end up scoring, but that’s not how it came across on the broadcast and it made me think Romo didn’t know the overtime rule.”
Romo came across more chill than usual, but a low-scoring game isn’t his strength
Bryan Curtis, media critic for The Ringer, had a lengthy take on Romo, noting that he actually sounded much less hyper than has become customary.
“Romo is a very different announcer when he’s not calling a shoot-out. Offense is what interests him,” Curtis wrote. “The problem is that, Sunday, Romo’s focus on offense prevented him from telling the story of the game. If Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy were trading touchdowns, well, Here we go, Jim! But if two defenses are playing well, as they were for big stretches of Sunday’s game, you have to have the curiosity to explain why that’s happening, too.
“When the Chiefs defense forced the Niners offense into three straight three-and-outs to start the second half, Romo barely touched on it. His note was: The Niners should run more. Romo was happy to note how the Chiefs were picking on the Niners’ backup linebackers after Dre Greenlaw’s injury, though. It felt like he was seeing half the field.”
But Tony Romo still has those strengths, as well
Curtis continued by pointing out where Romo shines.
“In the second quarter, when Mahomes threw a ball behind receiver Justin Watson, Romo looked at a replay and showed how defensive tackle Arik Armstead’s rush made Mahomes change his arm angle slightly,” Curtis wrote.
“Romo was loose, too. In one of the biggest TV games of his life, Romo was humming Adele as CBS went to break.
Or listen to Romo on Harrison Butker’s game-tying kick at the end of the fourth quarter: ‘No way it ends like this, does it?’ The sentiment was dead-on. What other announcer throws out a line like that? Who else even thinks that? There are times — some times — when Romo is exactly the announcer you want.”