Pundit Tree: Tony Romo's Walk-Off and Joe Buck's Personal Note

Kyle Koster
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Everyone is desperate to get their slick mitts on Tony Romo. Rumors of $14 million contracts abound. Logic and reason suggest he'll re-up at CBS, where he is very comfortable. But that doesn't mean he wasn't playing for something during the Titans-Chiefs game.

Like an athlete in a contract year, Romo had to maintain his high level of excellence. He did just that, putting on a virtuoso performance nearly as impressive as his AFC Championship Game clairvoyance last season.

It takes a brave pundit to critique the almighty Romo. It's also worth pointing out that he is, in fact, fallible-- just not in exciting, offense-driven games with elite quarterback play. He is so much more comfortable and joyous breaking down what Patrick Mahomes is doing than he is finding his place in a defensive slugfest. Consider the last Super Bowl, which was, unsurprisingly, one of his shakier efforts.

ESPN has to know this. Romo must know this. It should inform the calculus going forward. Whereas Romo will be gifted compelling matchups with CBS almost every week, he'll be saddled with leftovers on Monday Night Football. There is a difference between Ravens-Packers on Sunday afternoon and Bengals-Jets on a weeknight.

Now, Disney would love to change the landscape in the future and is a major player in the rights package. The allure of ABC telecasts and joining the Super Bowl rota is there. They could compete, quality-wise, with CBS in the long-term. Or they could continue to be forced to make chicken salad out of tanking or uninteresting teams.

There are so many reasons for Romo to stay put and ESPN's play feels more like a Hail Mary than an eight-yard out. One of those reasons is the very real possibility he's in the best system that exists right now. Trying to stake out new ground somewhere else could expose what seems to be his only minor flaw.

Mike and Kyle Shanahan.
Mike and Kyle Shanahan. / Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Son of a dad

Joe Buck and Kyle Shanahan have both risen to the highest level of their fathers' respective industries. Their names and lineage may have helped them get a foot in the door, but their talent and work ethic has allowed them to forge their own path and find success. Fox's prized play-by-play man alluded to this during Sunday's NFC Championship Game, saying he knows all that comes with being the apple from an established tree.

Like a lot of things Buck says, this was misinterpreted initially by some who felt it reeked of woe-is-me. He used the word "overcome" then quickly clarified that the good far exceeds the bad in this scenario.

People hear what they want to hear. And so many have deep-seeded dislike for Buck. But an honest question here: If an announcer's personal story is congruent to the game story or topic of the moment, isn't it better to address it?

One cannot tell the tale of Shanahan without starting at the beginning of his coaching career. Like Buck, nepotism is partly responsible for sparking the fire. It is not responsible for keeping that fire burning hot.

Broadly speaking, it's far better to be well-heeled and connected than to be an outsider. And looking at the NFL's inability to reflect diversity among the coaching ranks, their old boys club is the elephant in the room. With all of that said, there are unique challenges that come with being a son of ____.

It may not be the most sympathetic perspective, but it was needed perspective and added a layer by breaking down the fourth wall.

Dan the man

In How Did He Get This Scoop News, Adam Schefter is reporting Dan Orlovsky has fielded calls from NFL teams interested in bringing him on as an offensive coach. Orlovsky has been one of ESPN's fastest-rising stars and has demonstrated great value and versatility. His on-air ceiling is incredibly high and the 36-year-old is on the path to realizing it.

Becoming a mid-tier NFL coach is more of a lateral move than an upgrade and few analysts showcase such a blend of passion and knowledge; it certainly seems Orlovsky is sufficiently stimulated in his current role. Though I have no inside information, it'd be a great shock to see him take himself off air and onto a sideline.

It's good to have options. Look no further than a co-worker reporting news that increases your bargaining leverage for proof positive he's living the dream.

Smith inside the Lines

A new-look Outside the Lines made its re-tooled debut and showed promise. Mina Kimes delivered powerful commentary. Jeremy Schaap looked comfortable driving the network's journalism prestige vehicle. But the inclusion of Stephen A. Smith? A bit odd.

Smith is handsomely compensated and more than earns his money by figuring out how to bend time and space in order to appear nearly omnipresent on the air. So the effort is appreciated. It's just that the pairing of a guy who threatened Kevin Durant and does performative kayfabe to needle Dallas Cowboys doesn't exactly fit the Bob Ley mold.

That's not to say he can't be a valuable asset -- perhaps it'll just take some getting used to.

Ringing in the ears

Though they are very different, The Ringer and Barstool Sports exist in the same phylum where audio content began to catch up, in matter of importance, with written content. Podcasts probably surpass it on the food chain at the latter site and are running neck-and-neck at the former.

News that Spotify is interested in Bill Simmons' outfit makes a lot of sense. News that a mid-level casino wants to pay the Chernin Group boffo bucks to license the bro brand wouldn't have comported with reality a year ago, but now it's easy to see why.

Paydays in the media world are few and far between, yet it's clearer than ever that a robust podcast network is nearly a prerequisite. My colleague Ryan Glasspiegel posed an interesting question on Twitter regarding these two outlets:

No matter what the final numbers look like, the great pivot to audio has paid off big-time for two of the more lucrative players in the game. This will never cease to intrigue me -- and perhaps only me. There was a time not so long ago when just listening to something without moving video was Dark Ages stuff. You couldn't sell the idea to young people.

Now, it's a cash cow, being milked to perfection.

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