When it's all said and done Tony Romo is going to have put together a fascinating broadcast career. Hell, one could make the argument that he already has after three Super Bowls in seven years — the same as Patrick Mahomes over the same timeline. No color commentator has started as hot out of the gates. Romo was the definition of predictive analysis in human form and his clairvoyance was a neat parlor trick showcasing his connectivity to the league he'd just recently left. Then the honeymoon period, as it tends to do, wore off and the schtick got old, forcing the straw that stirs CBS' top booth to reinvent himself ... back into himself.
Super Bowl LVIII was a legacy games for both Mahomes and Romo. Each eventually delivered the goods, but it was not pretty and not without some self-inflicted errors. The 28-year-old quarterback who is still playing has learned — and perhaps leaned into — winning ugly. The 43-year-old announcer has learned to win weird.
That is not meant as an insult. It means that Romo is just being himself out there. Having fun like Brett Favre, taking chances and throwing into coverage with some chance-y material. Singing and humming way more than anyone needs him to do. Not fully grasping the rules and reliably talking over some of the bigger moments. The only thing more tired than talking about the Tony Romo backlash is talking about the backlash to the backlash and we absolutely do not need more investigation into this issue. We live in a time where it's virtually impossible to be on top without taking slings and arrows and no one resting until they've knocked the shiny new thing off its pedestal a bit.
The whole point of sitting Romo next to Jim Nantz in the first place is to provide the soundtrack of someone viewers would want to have a beer with during the game. If you do that, you run the risk of that person sounding like they're really into the beer and a little spotty on the football. So we get the drifting and the improv and the what-the-hell-was-that moments with Romo. And as the sample size grows, that appears to be a feature, not a bug.
An overwhelming majority of analysts exist to not be noticed. Romo is different because you can't help but notice him. You can't help but feel like Woody Harrelson in True Detective asking Matthew McConaughey to stop saying odd shit. Strange noises come out with incredible regularity. The I Don't Know, Jim thing has already entrenched itself in the zeitgeist.
If the intention is to sit down and write a serious term paper about the state of Romo, there's plenty for nits to pick and hands to wring. At the end of the day, though, it's football. It's supposed to be fun. Say what you want but Romo calling a game is fun. He's quirky and folksy and can become a caricature.
You know who else was like that? Most of the all-time greats. Cris Collinsworth now. John Madden back then. Eccentricity can be positive or negative but no matter what it keeps viewers on their toes. Romo is a lot of things but boring and staid is not one of them. Only he could have turned in that body of work from last night. And perhaps only he is confident enough to do so.
He trusts himself to be himself, which in a lot of ways is the simplest way to broadcast.
And that's why the whole discourse surrounding him feels off by a few degrees. It's like everyone wants to say something important or insightful about what Romo means when the best thing to do might be to just chill out and enjoy the ride even with the knowledge that there might be some detours or missed exits or strange humming along to the radio as he either forgets there's 120 million people piled into the backseat or simply doesn't care.