The Press Box Perspective: Can Romo Succeed in the Booth and What’s Next for Simms?

By Andrew Zuhosky

Last week, the Dallas Cowboys lost their veteran quarterback, Tony Romo, who only threw for 29 yards and one touchdown in the 2016 season, to retirement.

Throughout the offseason, there were rumors floating around that his next career move would be to the broadcast booth. On April 4, the same day that Romo ended his playing career, those rumors were proven true.

Beginning in 2017, Tony Romo will be paired with veteran play-by-play commentator Jim Nantz on “The NFL on CBS” as the lead announcing team.

Romo will succeed former No. 1 color commentator Phil Simms, who spent the last 19 seasons on CBS’ lead commentary team — first with Greg Gumbel at the inception of the current incarnation of “The NFL on CBS” from 1998 until 2003, before Nantz and Gumbel swapped places on “The NFL Today” and game coverage in 2004.

All told, Simms has spent the past 23 seasons in broadcasting, spending the 1994 season at ESPN as a studio analyst before joining NBC’s top broadcast crew in 1995 with Dick Enberg and Paul Maguire. Both Gumbel and Simms moved to CBS in 1998 upon CBS regaining broadcast rights to NFL games.

Gumbel previously worked at CBS from 1988 to 1994, during which time he spent four years anchoring “The NFL Today” with Terry Bradshaw as analyst, leaving for NBC in 1994 after CBS lost NFL games to FOX.

Now, this leads to two questions: one, what will happen to Phil Simms, and two, will Tony Romo succeed as a broadcaster?

For the first question, note that Simms’ contract with CBS Sports is still ongoing.

Last Saturday, he spoke for the first time on losing the top spot to the newly-retired Romo to Gary Myers, an NFL columnist for The New York Daily News via text, writing simply, “I am not done.”

Myers outlined several possible avenues for Simms, like podcasting with son Chris, who played at quarterback like his father, and also serves as a color commentator on CBS like his father.

The most obvious avenue for Simms in my opinion would be to spend Sunday afternoons in the fall in Studio 43 at the CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th Street in New York City on “The NFL Today.”

There’s already an opening at the desk, which features James Brown, Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason and Bart Scott after Tony Gonzalez announced he’d be leaving the long-standing pregame show last month.

Simms could be plugged in easily, I think, especially since he and Esiason already work on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL.”

Now, for the question about Romo: obviously, since we’re less than five months out from the start of the new NFL season, there is no definitive answer as to if he’ll succeed in the booth.

However, in my opinion, Tony Romo will do just fine in the booth, especially with a great talent in the form of Jim Nantz on play-by-play. Nantz and his colleagues, whether it’s golf, the NFL, or college basketball, always work well together.

When you consider that Nantz is the top play-by-play commentator for CBS in all three of those sports and that Nantz’ career highlights include some of sports’ highest-profile events, I think he and Romo are going to work well in the booth.

As of the time I wrote this (last Sunday afternoon), the NFL schedule for the 2017 season had yet to be released.

If you follow the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day telecast rotation closely, you’d know that CBS has the rights to the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving game in odd-numbered seasons, meaning Romo will be the analyst for that game this year.

Good luck to Romo in his new venture.