Tony Romo didn’t quite reach the lofty expectations of Cowboys fans by the time the former quarterback hung up his jersey in 2016. But in his second act, as a commentator and analyst, he’s surpassed all expectations. Romo and co-commentator Jim Nantz are by far the favorite broadcasting team of NFL fans and media pundits alike.
The quality of their broadcasts made Romo immensely valuable to CBS Sports. The rapport between the two — Nantz’s sharp wit and Romo’s accessible brilliance — is irreplaceable. Normally, this level of commentary takes years to develop. But, according to Nantz himself, Romo was ready to go before CBS even finished training him.
Tony Romo turned a frustrating NFL career into an instant broadcasting success
Romo had a long run in the NFL. Cowboys fans hoped for him to be the centerpiece of a new dynastic period for the franchise. Mostly, he gave them what they asked for. His final career passer rating, 97.1, has him ranked ninth overall on the all-time list, Pro Football Reference reports. It’s the highest among all retired QBs. That speaks to both Romo’s greatness and the spike in quality of the crop that came into the league at the end of his run.
That average success covers up the core of Romo’s frustration in the NFL. Much to the chagrin of Super Bowl-starved Dallas fans, his postseason performance was poor. The Cowboys never made it past the divisional round. He led the team to playoff victories just twice. He was, objectively, one of the best QBs in the team’s history, yet he wound down his career seen as something of a disappointing figure in the franchise’s lore.
Jim Nantz wanted Romo on-air long before he finished ‘Broadcasting Boot Camp’
Romo spent his last year in Dallas serving as a mentor to Dak Prescott. His postgame interviews became uncommonly thoughtful and introspective, attracting attention from major sports networks in search for a shot in the arm for their broadcasting. CBS Sports won the sweepstakes, and immediately put the recently-retired QB through the wringer.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Romo was put on the fast track. This ruffled some feathers, as veteran broadcasters were passed up for the spot. But Nantz, with decades of experience under his own belt, thinks Romo wasn’t put into the hot seat fast enough.
On the Great Dane Nation podcast, Nantz recently revealed his unequivocal feelings on whether Romo deserved to take one of the biggest jobs in all of sports broadcasting as fast as he did. “It was pretty obvious that he had a natural gift of communication skills,” Nantz enthused.
Nantz went on to describe CBS’ so-called “Broadcasting Boot Camp,” which involved Romo providing full commentary for eight NFL games to prove his chops. “After the first or second [test game], I thought it was a waste of time for us to be doing these practice games,” Nantz said. “He was ready.”
Will Nantz and Romo continue as a pair for the foreseeable future?
Romo’s instant success made his contract negotiations uncommonly favorable on his side of the table. His alchemy with Nantz is no small part of that, and the longtime broadcaster hopes to spin that in his favor. He’s pushing to get compensated more like Romo’s $17.5 million deal, a bit of brinkmanship that might ironically spell the end of his most successful broadcasting pairing.
It’s still up in the air whether Nantz is angling for a pay bump, or if he really will walk away without a Romo-sized salary bump. It would be heartbreaking to have the pair split so soon in their run. But it appears Nantz is willing to bet on his half of the duo’s magic, and it’s up to CBS Sports to recognize how special this pairing is.