Announcers

The Romo update: Where will he land? After just 3 years, Tony is likely to become highest paid analyst ever

It's easy to put money aside but CBS took a risk on a raw Romo in 2017; Nantz helped shaped him; The network deserves his continued services

Tony Romo has been a subject of conversation since he became a fan favorite. And that didn’t take too long. After his first season in 2017, the football nation sang his praises. He was a man on an almost unprecedented broadcast rise.

Romo replaced Phil Simms and gave the CBS broadcasts a fresh and enriched feel almost immediately.

His three year contract is up this spring and whether he’ll stay or go to ESPN is a matter of great anticipation. The ex-Dallas quarterback is one of the most coveted free agents to hit the broadcasting market in decades.

ESPN MNF Quick history:

ESPN’s Monday Night Football started in 2006 with Mike Tirico in the play-by-play chair. Early analysts included Ron Jaworski, Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser. Finally Jon Gruden and Tirico served in a steady two man booth. When Tirico left for greener pastures at NBC, ESPN assigned the solid and dependable Sean McDonough. He was terrific but there were reports that the NFL wasn’t pleased with some of his transparent reporting.

Joe Tessitore followed. His dramatic and sometimes uneven style seemed to be more suited for the college game. Officially, Tessitore is still ESPN’s MNF announcer.

When Gruden headed back to the coaching sidelines a couple years ago, tight end Jason Witten came aboard for one season and then unretired himself, returning to the Cowboys playing field. Booger McFarland was a third man used experimentally for one season in a rolling cart that looked like something out of early science-fiction. ESPN got away from that failed experiment this past season and had Booger work alone in the booth with Tessitore. Lisa Salters is the one constant, doing fine work on the sidelines. ESPN’s MNF though needs a splash of spunk, enthusiasm and consistency.

Here’s what we culled:

  • With the recent revolving door struggles of ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcasts, the network is preparing to offer Romo a record contract. Depending on what you read, it can be anywhere between $10-$14 million a year, a significant raise from the better than $3 million a year that his current CBS contract reportedly pays. Other reports have Romo’s salary at about $4 million.
  • The new contract would almost certainly make him the highest-paid NFL analyst, ahead of Troy Aikman’s estimated $7.5 million contract with FOX.
  • If Romo does sign for a reported $10-$14 million year, it would exceed the max base salary he ever made as a player, $8.5 million in 2016. His contract would be up in the tier of the polarizing Stephen A. Smith, supposedly $10 million/year.
  • The highest paid NFL television analyst was John Madden, a reported $8 million. But that’s years ago and it doesn’t factor in inflation.
  • John Ourland of the Sports Business Journal sees Romo staying put with CBS. A few things he notes in favor of Romo staying:
    1. Consistency with play-by-play voice Jim Nantz, who helped mold Romo into what he  is today. The two worked together as a team for three years. Jim is one of Romo’s closest friends.
    2. CBS’ Jim Rickhoff was chosen to be the network’s top NFL producer after Romo’s hiring, and he too developed into one of Romo’s close friends.
    3. CBS gets a better schedule of games and a higher average viewership than ESPN, plus all playoff rounds each year, and the Super Bowl every three years. For now, under the current contract, ESPN/ABC is stuck with the a less attractive game on Monday nights. It does air a playoff wild card matchup and simulcasts it on ABC.
  • Another thing that Ourland addresses in his column is how will Romo’s new contract set the market for other A-level analyst.  Cris Collinsworth with NBC, Aikman with FOX, Herbstreit with ESPN could all command salaries equal to or greater than that of Romo’s. Time will tell.
  • It won’t be as easy as ESPN just offering the former Cowboy an absurd amount of money to lure Romo. According to Ourand, CBS has matching rights to whatever offer ESPN or another network throws in front of Romo. So lots of chess moves remain.
  • Ourland also appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media Podcast and noted something that not many are thinking about, CBS’ golf relationship. Should Romo, an avid man on the links who competed in the Safeway Open last September, want to broadcast the sport in football’s offseason, there might be that opportunity.
  • Also explored on the podcast, is who would succeed Romo if he leaves. Drew Brees could be a candidate, depending on the decisions he makes as a free agent this offseason. Maybe even Eli Manning, thanks to his retirement. Again, only time will tell.
  • Andrew Marchand of the New York Post writes, “CBS understands that ESPN might offer a crazy salary, but is prepared to play the high-stakes game of chicken, knowing it has the final at-bat with its contractual right to match any Disney offer.”
  • New NFL television contracts will soon be negotiated. Disney’s ESPN and ABC want to land in the Super Bowl rotation. Getting Romo in its stable, won’t hurt in the negotiations.
  • Rob Tornoe of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote recently, “Romo now has a choice to make. His contract is up at CBS, and ESPN is reportedly ready to offer him $10-14 million a year to join Monday Night Football (media reports peg his current annual salary around $4 million). CBS and ESPN have declined to comment, but it’s hard to imagine Romo jumping ship, especially since CBS will once again air the Super Bowl in 2021 and their slate of 4:25 p.m. Sunday games remains far superior to what the NFL gives ESPN.”

Editor’s Note: You have to wonder how long Romo’s prophecy will be as sharp as it’s been these past three years. The longer that time elapses from his playing days in Dallas, his capital of contacts and his insights will likely dull. Will he be as good in five years? Will some other football rock star hit the TV stage?

**

It will be interesting to see how Sunday’s Super Bowl does from a ratings perspective. The Kobe tragedy set a dour tone. The week was also spent talking about all sorts of other distracting things, Will Roger Goodell retire? Will Romo leave CBS? How will negotiations go with the NFLPA? What will happen to Tom Brady?

Empirically, I just didn’t hear as much build up about the game itself. Who knows? We’ll find out midmorning Monday.

 

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TJ Mathewson

TJ Mathewson is a graduate of the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. He is a native of Seattle, Washington and called ASU play-by-play for the student radio station and continues to write about sports and sports broadcasting for a number of platforms.

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Larry Turner
Larry Turner
7 months ago

Romo is terrible, mumbles, doesn’t no players names, second guessing, he just don’t do his homework, at times he unbearable to listen. At times seems not really interested in the game, Jim Nantz covers for Romo’s unpredictable outbursts….

Michael Green
7 months ago

I think Romo is an acquired taste, but when I hear him, I find I’ve acquired it. He’s enthusiastic, he’s having fun, he isn’t so worried about X’s and O’s that he forgets the viewers know less about that stuff than he does and aren’t necessarily going to learn it, and HE’S fun. That said, I’d like a shout-out for Hank Stram, who, on TV and radio, regularly predicted plays, too!