If Romo Learns the TV Playbook, He Will Succeed as a Broadcaster"

September 2, 2017

This past July, CBS Sports announced it has hired former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.  Romo will replace 19-year vet Phil Simms and will be paired with play-by-play man Jim Nantz.  This hire immediately installs Romo on CBS’s number one broadcast team covering NFL games, the NFL on CBS.  This is a lofty and coveted job in sports broadcasting to be a network’s number one NFL game analyst-color commentator.  There are hundreds of former players who strongly desired to succeed Phil Simms, so congratulations are in order for Romo on this plum assignment.

He had a wonderful career and will retire as one of the greatest QBs in Dallas' history.  Number 9 holds many of the Cowboys passing records.  Every NFL legend comes to that fork in the road when he ponders the idea of retirement, or perhaps pushing himself physically to play one more year.  Romo’s time to step away from the game he dearly loved, is now.

His timing lines up well with CBS who was looking to replace Simms, and find a new partner for Nantz, one of the preeminent play-by-play guys in all of sports.  In recent years, Simms has been stung by increasingly unfavorable reviews.  Slip ups and misspeaks are part of any broadcaster’s tenure.  Do enough live television and you’re bound to become victimized by forgetfulness and inaccurate statements.  In Simms’ case, the public was very unforgiving and CBS felt change was needed.  Simms didn’t ascend however, to the number one NFL chair by mistake.  He was very good at what he did, as CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus acknowledged in a statement today, and Simms' broadcast career is by no means dead.  I’m certain he'll continue to be productive on TV.  It’s uncertain as of now whether he’ll be demoted to the number two team or leave the network altogether.

 

"For all that Romo gave the @NFL, this is a gamble to place him on the #1 CBS team."

 

  We in the industry wish him well, but I’ll remind all athletes, regardless of what you accomplished on the field or in the arena, being “on this side” of the microphone is not an easy transition.  This however, speaks to the moxie of Romo, to accept this job and all the pressure that comes with it.  Because if he thought the Dallas football fans were sometimes ruthless and unappreciative, wait till he gets a load of the unforgiving nature of a national football audience!

There will undoubtedly be much hype and pomp and circumstance for Romo’s first TV game.  There will be a natural curiosity factor that will draw millions of listeners and viewers to that maiden broadcast.  But after the luster wears off, Romo will eventually be judged by what he says and how he says it.  His success on the gridiron is no guarantee he’ll do well in the broadcast booth.  I’ve trained average NFL guys to succeed mightily on TV, and have watched Hall of Famers bomb on television.

Romo’s articulate nature and knowledge of Xs and Os will bode well at the start, but over time, critics will ask, “What does he actually add to the broadcast?”  Filling the shoes of Phil Simms will be no easy and ordinary task.  Just like Dak Prescott filling Romo’s shoes wasn’t very easy either.

 

Today CBS Sports announced it has hired former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.  Romo will replace 19-year vet Phil Simms and will be paired with play-by-play man Jim Nantz.  This hire immediately installs Romo on CBS’s number one broadcast team covering NFL games, the NFL on CBS.  This is a lofty and coveted job in sports broadcasting to be a network’s number one NFL game analyst-color commentator.  There are hundreds of former players who strongly desired to succeed Phil Simms, so congratulations are in order for Romo on this plum assignment.

He had a wonderful career and will retire as one of the greatest QBs in Dallas' history.  Number 9 holds many of the Cowboys passing records.  Every NFL legend comes to that fork in the road when he ponders the idea of retirement, or perhaps pushing himself physically to play one more year.  Romo’s time to step away from the game he dearly loved, is now.

His timing lines up well with CBS who was looking to replace Simms, and find a new partner for Nantz, one of the preeminent play-by-play guys in all of sports.  In recent years, Simms has been stung by increasingly unfavorable reviews.  Slip ups and misspeaks are part of any broadcaster’s tenure.  Do enough live television and you’re bound to become victimized by forgetfulness and inaccurate statements.  In Simms’ case, the public was very unforgiving and CBS felt change was needed.  Simms didn’t ascend however, to the number one NFL chair by mistake.  He was very good at what he did, as CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus acknowledged in a statement today, and Simms' broadcast career is by no means dead.  I’m certain he'll continue to be productive on TV.  It’s uncertain as of now whether he’ll be demoted to the number two team or leave the network altogether.

"For all that Romo gave the @NFL, this is a gamble to place him on the #1 CBS team."   

For all that Romo gave the NFL, this is a gamble to place him on the number one CBS broadcast team.  We in the industry wish him well, but I’ll remind all athletes, regardless of what you accomplished on the field or in the arena, being “on this side” of the microphone is not an easy transition.  This however, speaks to the moxie of Romo, to accept this job and all the pressure that comes with it.  Because if he thought the Dallas football fans were sometimes ruthless and unappreciative, wait till he gets a load of the unforgiving nature of a national football audience!

There will undoubtedly be much hype and pomp and circumstance for Romo’s first TV game.  There will be a natural curiosity factor that will draw millions of listeners and viewers to that maiden broadcast.  But after the luster wears off, Romo will eventually be judged by what he says and how he says it.  His success on the gridiron is no guarantee he’ll do well in the broadcast booth.  I’ve trained average NFL guys to succeed mightily on TV, and have watched Hall of Famers bomb on television.

Romo’s articulate nature and knowledge of Xs and Os will bode well at the start, but over time, critics will ask, “What does he actually add to the broadcast?”  Filling the shoes of Phil Simms will be no easy and ordinary task.  Just like Dak Prescott filling Romo’s shoes wasn’t very easy either.

 

"[#NFL fans] will not want to hear the voice of a @DallasCowboys sympathizer."  

 

The audience will not want to hear the voice of a Cowboys sympathizer nor a Cowboys homer.  But given that CBS holds the AFC package of games, Romo will likely be able to avoid coverage of the Cowboys, but its inevitable in due time, that he will be called on to render analysis of his former team.  

I teach my clients to P.E.E. on the audience.  Through a series of workshops and mock TV auditions, I teach studio and game analysts to Provoke the audience.  This means speaking in a way that challenges the viewers to think differently about something they’ve just watched on their television.  The key is to provoke viewers to analyze and interpret the video highlight differently than how they would normally do.  Athletes and fans watch games differently, and Romo must be that bridge to challenge the fans to see the game through a different prism.  Secondly, Romo must Educate the audience.  Tell viewers something they don’t know.  He should not feel restrained to speak his technical knowledge of what he knows about the current NFL game.  This is what Troy Aikman and Warren Moon do well.  Every year, the game evolves, and Romo knows its evolution having just stepped out of that game.  Don’t speak down to the level of the audience’s understanding.  Instead, raise them up and tell viewers something that they don’t know.  Enhance their knowledge base of the NFL.  And thirdly, Romo must Entertain the audience.  Make them chuckle, smile or roar with laughter by what he says or the manner that he says it.  Or how he reacts to something his partner Nantz says.  NBC’s Chris Collingsworth has excelled in this department over the years with Al Michaels.  John Madden with Michaels prior.

The NFL on CBS TV broadcast playbook is the most difficult of any that Romo will be asked to master.  Kickoff for preseason games is four and a half months away.  That leaves very little time to develop chemistry with Nantz, learn AFC personnel, team schemes, timing--how quickly and immediately to articulate analytical talking points, instant replays, and everything else that a game broadcast entails.

As an instructor now who teaches it and a broadcaster who has logged thousands of hours on live TV, this stuff is simply not as easy as it looks and sounds.  Simms made it appear simple, because he was a pro, but he was rocky when first starting out.  Every analyst succeeds via a different learning curve.  And Romo too will undoubtedly fail and make mistakes early on.  How far he goes eventually depends on what he says, how he says it and looking and sounding good while he says it.  The network will have to exercise patience with Romo too, as it does all newcomers, because Romo is untested and to this day unproven in this capacity.  

 

 

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