Mac Engel

Romo’s CBS debut should be modest expectations

After watching Jordan Spieth win the hideous plaid jacket last year, Dean and DeLuca won The Colonial for a second consecutive season of its sponsorship with our own PGA event.

Dean and DeLuca will score more eyeballs this year after our favorite former Dallas Cowboys quarterback made his debut with CBS as part of the telecast on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

The decision to put Romo in the booth at Colonial is not a practice run. This was an invitation for a celebrity who loves golf and lives nearby.

Although an avid golfer with a knowledge of the history of the game, Romo is not preparing to join CBS’ golf coverage team, much the way the late Pat Summerall did umpteen years ago.

Romo’s boss, however, did him no favors in previewing Romo’s “surprise” visit to the CBS tower at the 18th tee. This week, Colonial Country Club member and veteran CBS sports producer Lance Barrow told an audience at a pre-tourney event that Romo is going to be the “next John Madden.”

When this nugget of viral news ascended to New York and CBS Sports President Sean McManus, he politely advised Barrow to tone down the expectations for their new No. 1 NFL analyst.

Romo is not going to be the next John Madden. There is no next John Madden. Madden is partly in the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on a raw style, personality and language that are endemic to one specific man.

I can’t hear Romo saying, “Boom!” “Whack!” and “Crash!” the way Madden famously did next to his 90-degree angled partner, Summerall.

All Tony Romo needs to do in Year No. 1 as a broadcaster is to shave more frequently, do what Jim Nantz tells him, and just be better than his predecessor, Phil Simms. And then have a custom flak jacket designed for the criticism that he will endure.

Over the past few years no NFL analyst received as much unkind evaluation as Simms. NFL fans celebrated not at the news that Romo would join Nantz as CBS’ top-NFL duo, but rather they no longer would have to listen to the Super Bowl-winning quarterback from the New York Giants.

Although in the booth off air Nantz and Simms appeared to get along just fine, on air there were multiple exchanges where a viewer could conclude their relationship was strained.

Make no mistake — this is Nantz’s booth. The change of Simms to Romo did not happen without Nantz’s approval. Next to Joe Buck, there is no more powerful broadcaster in sports than Nantz.

And unlike Buck, who has said he plans to leave the booth sooner rather than later in an effort to pursue other interests, calling sports and events is Nantz’s passion. Even though he has young children, a successful wine label and his efforts to fight Alzheimers through his foundation require time, he has no interest in giving up his role with CBS.

The sooner Romo learns that and yields to Nantz’s judgment he will become a better broadcaster. If Romo pulls an “I got this” rather than “Tell me more” this high-profile move is going to bomb all over McManus’ face.

On Saturday next to Nantz and color analyst Nick Faldo, Romo sounded like a guy who has zero intention of coming back to play another down, and has no idea what he is doing yet.

“When you are a football player you are a guy who is used to going through this routine each week,” Romo told Nantz and Faldo. “And you are used to getting ready for one game and you put in all of this preparation and time all week. For me, I like the preparation aspsect of that playing the quarterback position. This feels similar. I get to keep that same routine. You’re watching tape to get ready each week and you have your Sunday. You’re big moment when everyone is out there. For me that is exciting.”

Yeah, it’s not the same. It’s always more fun to play than to watch.

One of the traits that his coaches found both admirable and frustrating was his knack for completing their sentence before it was finished. He’s not a dumb guy; he knew where they were going so he stopped them, or tuned them out.

At least in football Romo knew the language, the speed, the pace, and feel of a football game. He has no such baseline for a football broadcast. He will be better served to just let Barrow, Nantz and the veterans to finish their sentences before he says, “I got this.”

As Simms discovered, viewers are fairly certain all broadcasters stink. Even Nantz is not immune, nor is Al Michaels, Bob Costas, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Marv Albert, Verne Lundquist, Chris Collinsworth or anyone else attached to their sport. They’re all just terrible.

There are none better than Collinsworth or Aikman; both men do their homework and offer insight, humor, analysis and criticism. They often inspire their viewers to throw chairs at the television, but that’s part of being a good analyst.

Romo is a funny, wise-a**. His dry sense of humor might get him in trouble, relatively speaking, if he’s not careful during a telecast. Viewers might not know when he’s joking.

He’s also smart. If Romo matures into the caliber of broadcasters as those two, CBS’s decision to hand him this spot was brilliant.

Romo had to earn his spot as a starting quarterback in the NFL for 10 seasons. Then he used his humor and wit, and celebrity status as the quarterback of America’s Team to parlay that into falling backwards into the top NFL analyst’s spot at CBS.

His Saturday chat with Nantz and Faldo is zero reflection on what type of analyst he will become.

For now all Romo needs to do is listen to Nantz, and be better than Simms.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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