SALT LAKE CITY — In an uncertain world, it’s good to know there is someone who can tell us what is happening and, better yet, what will happen.
I speak of course of Tony Romo, Seer of the Gridiron.
Wondering if you should buy more Apple stock? Call Tony.
Want a weather forecast? Call Tony.
Some tips at the blackjack table? If TR can tell us what Bill Belichick is thinking, how difficult can it be to predict the next card?
Wondering when the government shutdown will end? Call you-know-who.
Romo, you’ll recall, was a very good quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. It turns out he’s a GREAT TV football analyst. No, he’s better than that; he’s the greatest football analyst EVER. He is to the TV booth what Roger Federer is to a court.
Romo has an uncanny ability to explain what’s happening on a football field in ways that educate and make the game more fun. He also has a strange ability to predict the next play during the few seconds before the ball is snapped, as the teams are settling in on the line of scrimmage. A lot of analysts tell you what happened; he tells you what’s going to happen and eventually why. His prescience was on full display during Sunday’s AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs.
He was at his best when it counted most. With 3½ minutes left in regulation, the Patriots were trying to convert a fourth-and-inches play. Romo observed Brady and the Patriots’ formation and told the TV audience, “Oh, they’re killing it (changing the play at the line). Usually means a motion and a run out wide to the right.”
No sooner were the words out of Romo’s mouth than Rob Gronkowski went in motion to the right and Sony Michel took a handoff and ran through the right side of the line untouched for a touchdown (earlier in the game, Romo had noted that the Patriots liked to run to the weak side of the formation, which is exactly what they did on the touchdown).
With the Patriots facing a third-and-nine situation in overtime, Romo saw the formation and, while indicating specific players on the telestrator, said, “They gotta block the front. Gronk is lined up outside. You gotta chip with him (Gronk) and chip with him (Michel) and throw to (Julian) Edelman over the middle of the field.”
With Gronk and Michel blocking the blitz, just as Romo predicted, Edelman caught a pass in the middle of the field for 20 yards, setting up the game-winning score.
The day after the game, it was reported that CBS is going to offer Romo a raise. If he doesn’t double his $4 million salary, he’s being cheated. After Sunday’s game, TV viewers were talking about his commentary as much as the game, and when has that ever happened? One man tweeted that Tony Romo knows how "Game of Thrones" ends. Eagles star Chris Long tweeted, “Romo has Miss Cleo in his earpiece.” Free-agent baseball star Bryce Harper tweeted, “Just called Tony Romo to see where I’m going to play next year. #YoureAWizardTony.”
Sunday’s performance was no fluke. Romo has been making such predictions since he moved from the field to the booth two years ago. In his broadcasting debut, between the Raiders and Titans, he looked over the formation and said emphatically, “This ball’s going to Lynch.” Bingo.
A short time later, same game: “I’ve got $5 this is a run to the left.” Bingo. Play-by-play partner Jim Nantz was intrigued and asked him, “What did you see there?” Romo, laughing, said, “I’ve seen football in the NFL for 14 years.”
It’s more than that. Troy Aikman, Phil Simms and Cris Collinsworth all had long careers and they’re not predicting plays.
Same game: Raider quarterback Derek Carr yells, “Kill, kill,” to change the play that was called in the huddle. Observing this, Romo said, “Kill, kill. Here comes a run to the left.” Bingo.
Romo has become a party trick for Nantz. “What do you see here, Tony?” he asked before one play. Romo: “I thought they were going to run the ball to the right. Now he’s going back left with a run.” Bingo again.
On three consecutive plays, Romo made the following (correct) calls:
“We got a free-safety blitz off the edge.”
“If you’re running the ball on third and three, that’s telling me you’re going for it (on fourth down).”
"Take a look right here, Jim. If (the outside linebacker) comes downhill (slides closer to the box), they’re going to throw this fade down at the bottom (of the screen)."
Sometimes his predictions border the bizarre. During a game between Oakland and Denver last season, Romo said, “This is where the quarterback is going to roll right and launch the ball out of bounds. It’s gonna look weird.” Incredibly, Oakland quarterback Derek Carr rolled right and threw the ball downfield … out of bounds.” Said Nantz: “Tony stealing the signals once again.”
During a Packers-Bengals game, Romo said, “I don’t love that right there (circling a player on the telestrator); that looks like a tight end in the backfield. “Lacking the extra blocker on the line, Andy Dalton was sacked. “There was no chance at that play getting two yards or a yard,” said Romo.
After Nantz observed that, the offense was lined up in an empty formation, Romo said, “Heads-up for pressure off the top here.”
Dalton was sacked by that pressure from the top.
“Andy Dalton,” said Romo, “just doesn’t recognize the pressure at first and he doesn’t change the protection. When you’re in empty as a quarterback, the number one job is to tell the five linemen who they’re going to block.”
It’s a classroom and we’re Romo’s students. He explains why coaches, especially Belichick, like left-footed punters, and why sometimes the ball is snapped to the quarterback before he’s ready (he signals too quickly, before the linemen are ready and watching for it). He predicts blitzes and plays and deciphers audibles.2 comments on this story
Why do coaches even bother to cover their mouths when they call plays with Romo in the house?
Romo’s prescience raises a lot of questions: Why isn’t the defensive coordinator sitting next to this guy? Why isn’t Romo a defensive coordinator? If Romo knows what’s coming, why don’t the coaches on the sideline and the players on the field know it?
“He should be a coach,” Denver receiver Emmanuel Sanders tweeted. “He called out everything that they were doing.”
No, let’s leave Romo right where he is: In the booth.