So this is how it ends, because regardless of semantics Tony Romo retired from football. The best thing he can do now is to remain retired.
Brett Favre was Romo’s boyhood sports idol, and while Romo would try some of Favre’s risky antics on the field, he would be better off not to try to simulate what he did off it: repeatedly un-retire.
Tuesday’s news that Romo was granted his release by the Dallas Cowboys so he could join the CBS broadcast booth included the caveat that there is no use of the word retire. He deliberately left open the possibility of returning for the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos or any other team whose situation might appeal to him at that moment.
On a CBS conference call, I asked him if he has retired from football, to which he teed me up and clubbed me down the green by making fun of me (God knows I earned it) and avoiding the question.
For another, he answered.
“I am making the decision with the choice to come back, but I don’t envision coming out,” Romo said. “Do I think I am going to get some calls? I am sure I will. I am choosing CBS over playing football. That’s the decision I want to make.”
It’s also the wisest decision.
Now the best thing Romo can do is to follow in Troy Aikman’s path — again — and try become one of the best NFL analysts on television. Romo has all of the necessary skills to become a worthy analyst who will excel in this role as CBS’ NFL analyst with Jim Nantz on Sunday and Thursday telecasts.
Like Aikman did when he retired from the Cowboys in 2000, Romo will certainly receive interest from teams who are in desperate need of a quarterback. Like Aikman, he should pass on them all. Gain some weight. Skip the gym. Hit the 3-iron off the tee four times a week. Chase your kids.
Tony can still play, but what he decided is that it’s no longer worth the risk. At this moment. The CBS offer was too good to reject.
ESPN sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein tweeted: “Tony Romo, w ZERO broadcast experience, reportedly replacing Phil Simms on CBS’ #1 NFL game crew. No offense. But that’s total crap.”
She’s not wrong. Unlike Aikman, Simms and others who did some broadcasting on lower levels to gain experience, Romo has done none of the above.
This is simply how TV works, and Romo recognized that to be offered the No. 1 analyst job with “ZERO experience” was too good to ignore.
This is also what happens when you have kids, and “adulting” becomes the necessary necessity.
And if Romo does excel he should know that he’s going catch hell for it. The best analysts in the game, from Aikman to Chris Collinsworth to Simms to Jon Gruden, are all routinely ripped when they offer their opinion and insight.
Unlike an NFL game, where there is a definitive winner and a loser, no one ever wins in the booth. To a fickle audience, every analyst is terrible. Aikman and Collinsworth are the two best NFL analysts, and yet fans routinely harp against their analysis and opinions.
“I’m a person who likes to attack things. If I’m not a good broadcaster, it’s going to be very difficult,” Romo said. “There’s a chance you’re not very good. There’s going to be a lot of people who are counting on you to do something very well. It weighs on you.”
Just as Romo will not be able to spin away from the haters once he steps into the booth, he won’t be able to dodge the itch to play again, either. They all go through it, normally in August when teams go through training camp. The pattern is that the first Sunday in September without playing is hell on a former player.
Romo will turn 37 this month, and he has a history of major injuries. Bad backs are bad backs. Romo said this is the best he’s felt in the last “three to four years,” but they all say that.
He feels great because he has not taken a hit since that 2016 preseason game in Seattle when he suffered a broken bone in his back.
And he’s like the rest who can’t quite come to terms that it’s over, because it’s hard. That a game that defined him for decades has told him, without warning, it’s over.
That’s why he would not say retire, even though that’s exactly what he just did.
Good for him.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.