Tony Romo talked to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch about his first season as an NFL broadcaster. The magazine named Romo the Sports Illustrated Media Person of the Year. The interview touches on how Romo’s fatherhood directed him towards broadcasting, that emotional first Cowboys’ telecast and the team it takes to make him look good on TV.
Romo’s love of football had him originally figuring he’d get into coaching, but having three boys five and under made the long hours unappealing.
“So for me this job allows me to hopefully be a decent dad and to do a good job at that — and still be in the game of football. I think this is the one job that allowed me to do that,” Romo told S.I.
One of his favorite parts of the job is interviewing coaches and players the week before a game, going deep into schematics and the analytical side of the game. Even if coaches are often cagey about giving away anything.
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“I find a lot of times some coaches will try to hide things. If you know football well enough, you remember that certain coaches are trying to give you false information because they don’t want anything to get out,” he said. “It is a secretive thing. I am very protective of game plans, but people never tell you [their game plans] anyway. You almost have to figure it out.”
Romo said learning to find the right place in a broadcast for certain bits of information was the “most difficult part” of the his new job.
“When you have stuff that you think people really would want to know but it just doesn’t come up within the game,” he said. “You don’t want to reach for it because it sounds weird even though I think it might be a great point or story or something unique. That was something I had to learn: The game will eventually get you there.”
Romo was noticeably emotional when he did his first Cowboys’ game on Nov. 5.
“To feel the warmth of the crowd made it feel like what you did was worth it, if that makes sense. I don’t know, it just makes you feel special,” said Romo, who was cheered loudly after a pre-game tribute was shown at AT&T Stadium. “When you are sitting there feeling that way, you feel humbled and proud, and your kids are there, and when you have kids it is just a feeling of deep-rooted joy that they get to be part of it, and I didn’t have that when I was younger. But doing the game part was difficult. If you listened to the second game, I let it go a little more, and in the future I am pretty sure I will treat it like every other game.”
Romo has generally been widely praised for his obvious enjoyment of the game and his ability to predict plays, which has also garnered some mild criticism from broadcasting legend Brent Musburger.
“I knew I would do things a little abnormal and outside the box, but I just felt that people who love football like me want to learn football. If you love the game, hopefully you will enjoy learning it,” he said. “The way I think about the game, I wanted to show viewers that there is a whole bunch of things that they don’t know.”
Romo heaped praise on his broadcast partner Jim Nantz and the rest of the behind-the-scenes team at CBS, including producer Jim Rikhoff, for helping him transition smoothly into the booth. For example, Romo said, his outstanding call of the Raiders’ game-winning drive against the Chiefs on Oct. 19 in which he pointed out a coverage set that quarterback Derek Carr could potentially take advantage of on the final drive.
“As I am talking, my director Mike Arnold is listening to what I am saying. He pans out so as I am talking I can circle the safeties before the snap,” Romo explains. “So you see the two safeties. Nantz touches on it, and I talk about where the ball should go. The viewers see the two safeties and they both go back and Carr throws the ball to the tight end, right where you should against that coverage.”
“So it all looks simple, but it took five or six people at least to make that thing happen. I’m the one who said something so it makes me look smart or blah, blah, blah, but the reality was that was a brilliant sequence because of the teamwork it took for everyone to know what I was saying. Then right after that we got the four plays at the end and that was as exciting and fun to do as any drive or finish to the season.”