Tony Romo didn’t know exactly what I was going to ask him, but he probably had a good idea of what was coming. After a season in the broadcast booth with CBS following his surprise retirement from football, he’s learned a lot about using his skills to anticipate what’s coming.
Romo went right into the booth with Jim Nantz on the top pairing on CBS, getting premiere matchups as well as much of the network’s Thursday Night Football schedule. That package now belongs to Fox, but his year in prime time was good for viral moments where he excitedly narrated a cat’s exploits on the field during a game in October.
But the most exciting part of his job as an analyst came when he kept predicting what would happen on the field before it did. Fans loved Romo predicting audibles and where the ball was going on a play at the goal line, playing quarterback from a booth high above the field and giving people who have watched football for years something they rarely see: a chance to actually learn something in real time.
Romo sat down with Uproxx to talk about what he learned in his first year as a broadcaster and if he got any flack from players or coaches for tipping plays. He also talked about what former Dallas Cowboys teammate Jason Witten needs to do on ‘Monday Night Football’ as the former tight end follows in Romo’s footsteps in moving from Jerryworld to live sports broadcasts this year.
Uproxx: This is your second season in the broadcast booth with CBS. Is there anything different you plan to do this year after getting a season of work under your belt?
Tony Romo: Yeah. I mean, there’s always things you can work on. I’m not gonna tell you what those are, but I do think there are certain things you try to do every year when I was a quarterback that I’ll use now. You kind of subtly think and really make a difference and improve, to try and be better at those things. I’ve been toying around with them so we’ll see how they go.
Were you surprised at how enthusiastic people were about the way you call games? Your broadcasts got a huge response in your rookie year in the booth.
Yeah. You never really know how people are going to take to what happens. But it’s the same thing as playing football. Before you played your first game you just really don’t know if you’re good enough to be out there. You practice hard, you think you’re doing everything and you’re doing a good job and then all of a sudden you go out there, you play, you win a football game and you go ‘Wow, I can do this.’
It was the same thing with being an analyst. You’re trying to do a good job but you really never know. Then you go out there, people tell you that they like hearing you and you feel really good about that.
You sort of became infamous for tipping plays before they happened, or predicting what an offense would do in certain situations. How much of that was from your playing days and knowing certain calls compared to researching offenses as you prepped for a broadcast?
I mean, it’s not just one specific thing. I feel like as a quarterback I tried to get an advantage every week that I played. So I tried to find subtlety between schemes and what defenses are trying to run. I’d look for the mannerisms of the defensive player, their system and what the coordinator was trying to teach the players in how to stop our running game or our passing game. How they wanted to defend Dez or Witten and try and process it all information. Then when you get on the field you can see one little thing and go ‘Hey, this is coming.’
And knowing all that gives you a little bit of an edge. In the booth, I just go right back to being a quarterback. I know the tendencies of this coordinator, that he likes to do certain things, what this nickel cornerback and his mannerisms are telling me, that he’s coming for the quarterback based on just how just human beings try to hide things.
There’s a lot of stuff that goes into trying to figure out what’s coming on a play. I’m not really trying to predict as much as I’m just telling you what I’m thinking.
Did you get any flack from coordinators or players for calling things out or were they pretty cool with you letting fans into that part of the game?
No, they’re positive. I mean, there’s no way anyone (on the field) will know what’s coming when I talk about it just before the play. People can turn film on all day long. Coaches, players, that’s how they learn: by watching a lot of tape. Guys watch a lot of it to get a bit of an understanding. And then you just have to try and articulate it.
You’re taking over the Corona Fan Hotline for Jon Gruden, who is hopping out of the broadcast booth and back coaching the Raiders this fall. What’s it been like filming commercials for that and what do you expect the gig will be like?
I’m excited, just finding your gameday beach is the goal for everybody and I’m helping the fans do that. During football season you just kick back, enjoy the games with your friends and family and don’t be afraid to call that hotline and get all my great predictions and reflections.
I thought it was a great idea by Corona to come up with this and they did a great job and came back with this. So you can just call 1-844-9-CORONA.
A former teammate of yours, Jason Witten, is essentially doing what you did last season in retire and head into the broadcast booth. Did you reach out to him with any advice about how to approach the Monday Night Football job, did he maybe come to you or are you letting him figure things out on his own?
Yeah, we talked a little bit about stuff but you have to let… there will be some questions here and there but Jason has to find his own niche and I think he’s done a good job of that. He’s just going to get better every single week that he’s up there and I think he’s going to be really good at this.
You’re working with Jim Nantz in CBS’s lead broadcast booth. He’s been in the booth for a long time and has seen a lot. Has that helped you transition into the role? What’s something you’ve learned from him in your first year?
Just how smart, gifted and talented he is. One thing that was really, what you don’t realize is just how good he is all the way around. Until you really get around Jim you don’t realize that he does so many little things that you don’t even pick up on that make the game flow so smoothly and make it feel so effortless. But it’s just Jim’s talent.
He tees me up, sets it up and then takes it off from there and you don’t even realize how his voice fluctuates a little bit to enhance it. You go back and watch it and go ‘Man, that was really impressive.’
So you’re a big film guy, but are you watching your own broadcasts to study and get better after the fact? Do you take feedback from others and change things?
No, but I like to analyze myself the same as football. You watch tape and see if you did good. You want to get better and are less sure of some things, more sure of others. You want to have multiple pitches. So you want to be able to throw a curve ball sometimes people think a fastball is coming. The more pitches you have, the better your ability to call a game from quarter to quarter.