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ATLANTA — Tony Romo started 133 games, including six in the playoffs, across 13 seasons for a little outfit called the Dallas Cowboys. He appeared in national television commercials and late-night talk shows, Hollywood movies and major television programs. He dated Jessica Simpson.
The 38-year-old has been famous for a long time yet never quite as famous as he is now.
During the heavily watched CBS broadcast of the AFC championship game on Jan. 20, Romo repeatedly predicted the offensive plays of the New England Patriots as they defeated Kansas City. On snap after snap, with about 54 million viewers tuned in, Romo showed a knack for stating what Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was going to do with the ball before he did it.
He was immediately dubbed “Romostradomus” by broadcast partner Jim Nantz, as social media and viewers around the country looked on in awe.
“You’re the breakout star of CBS,” Romo was told by an entertainment reporter here Tuesday, as he prepared for Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast between the Patriots and Los Angeles Rams.
Romo thanked her but mostly shrugged. He deemed the pre-snap predictions “a novelty act.”
“You have so many years of experience, you just say what you see,” Romo said.
It’s no big deal, he implied. And while he is correct that many highly trained quarterbacks and coaches, who have spent years watching scouting footage, can see what he sees, that doesn’t mean it is as simple as he says.
“I’m still looking at [the game] from the quarterback’s perspective,” Romo said. “You start off with the personnel. Then you go to formation. Then you go to the protection side of it, what can you protect, what are the possibilities.
“And then you go situation,” he continued, meaning down and distance. “And then go through the one-on-one matchups and personnel. And then you start to go through mannerisms. And then you think about schemes and history of those coaches on what they could or couldn’t call based on down and distance and where they are at and time.”
See, not complicated.
Oh, and you have to do all of that in a matter of seconds and do it the same way that Brady is doing it, and then you need to convey it to a far less football-sophisticated audience in as few words as possible.
“[Rob Gronkowski] is out wide,” Romo said at one point of the fourth quarter in one of his predictions. “Watch the top of your screen. Watch this safety. If he comes down there’s a good chance [Tom Brady’s] throwing out there.”
Indeed, the safety “came down,” Tom Brady threw it “out there” and Gronk caught it “out wide.”
Romo never made the Super Bowl as a player and this is his first as a broadcaster, but he is suddenly one of the unquestioned stars (non player/coach division) of the biggest television show of the year – with an expected audience of over 100 million.
As such, he was swarmed by reporters and cameras at a CBS news conference on Tuesday. The New York papers had questions. Australian television needed a comment. “Entertainment Tonight” wanted him for a second.
There are highlight videos of his broadcast on Twitter. The Onion did a story teasing that Romo wishes he had used his predictive powers when he was still an active player. He was asked if he might join the Weather Channel to improve forecast accuracy.
Meanwhile, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who coached Romo with the Cowboys, joked that he needs a feed of the broadcast piped into his headset.
“Well, that’s probably not a good idea,” Romo said of Phillips idea.
Romo has always had a wicked sense of humor and self-deprecating, an everyman way about him, which is a bigger part of his broadcasting style than the predictive stuff. No matter how big he got as the Cowboys QB, he still envisioned himself as a small-town Wisconsin kid who went undrafted out of Eastern Illinois.
He made presnap predictions when he first started with CBS in 2017, but he stopped doing it on a regular basis because he didn’t want it to become repetitive. “I feel like you don’t want to do the same thing over and over,” Romo said.
It came back unplanned in the AFC title game because it felt comfortable and each play carried major significance. Also, the Patriots are very X-and-O driven, and thus easier to make the call.
Since the audience was exponentially higher for such an important and exciting game, Romo was discovered by tens of millions of new viewers. Romo may not be comfortable with all the attention, but he is glad people enjoyed it. That was always his goal when he decided to get into broadcasting after his playing career.
“It’s hard to sit down and watch anything for three hours anymore,” said Romo, who is the married father of three sons. “Everyone is playing on the phone. My wife is on Pinterest or something half the time.
“So I just know people,” Romo continued. “If they are not being entertained in some capacity, or they are not learning, I think it’s hard to keep their attention. If it’s their favorite team they will. But if it’s not their favorite team they’re in and out. So I want to make them enjoy it. … Hopefully the people at home enjoy it.”
As for the Super Bowl broadcast, Romo won’t be predicting each play. First off, he thinks that would ruin the game and become an annoyance. Second, it isn’t always easy, especially early in the game when gameplans try to be unpredictable.
If the score is tight in the end though, then it may return. Whatever feels natural. Romo didn’t get here trying to run some gimmick and he doesn’t want to overshadow the game. He’s just the color analyst, after all, and quite happy with the role.
“I’m just lucky to be here,” he said.
Here and somehow more famous than ever.
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