Romo’s direct transition from the gridiron to a top broadcast role is not without precedent.
At the urging of Bengals owner Mike Brown, former MVP Boomer Esiason blazed that trail in 1998, bypassing a modest contract offer from Cincinnati to accept the coveted Monday Night Football job alongside Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf.
Esiason lasted just three years as ABC’s color commentator before switching over to radio and, eventually, an in-studio analyst position with CBS.
“I wish I got that (MNF) job today as opposed to when I got it,” Esiason told John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal in 2014. “It takes time to understand the mechanisms of television.”
Esiason expressed a similar sentiment Tuesday, in response to the Romo news.
“It’ll be a trial by fire. It’s dangerous,” Esiason explained to The MMQB’s Peter King. “I guess my first reaction is: If I only knew then what I know now.”
Appearing on Wednesday’s version of Good Morning Football, Ourand emphasized that Romo’s move is not without precedent, but “it’s rarely done really, really well.”
Whereas Romo is being thrust into the spotlight as CBS’ showpiece, even the marquee analysts are customarily brought along more slowly, facilitating development. Troy Aikman, for example, earned his chops in NFL Europe, slid into a three-man booth with FOX and eventually worked his way into top billing alongside Joe Buck.
“I think he’s going to do great,” Scandrick said. “Tony is brilliant. I love the guy. Man, I’m going to miss having him as my teammate.”
Romo’s stiffest test as a broadcast rookie? It’s the same one that trips up so many ex-players fresh off the field: Is he willing to criticize former teammates, respected opponents and venerable coaches as the situation demands?
“I think he would be brutally honest,” Scandrick continued. “I think he would just call it how he sees it. He’s a smart guy. He’s phenomenal at the way he understands the game. Tony’s been a cerebral player for a long, long time. And that’s how he rose to what he was.”
Ourand testified that Romo is such a natural that he’s viewed as a “can’t-miss prospect” within the television industry.
“One hundred percent of the TV executives I’ve talked to,” Ourand relayed, “literally not one says anything bad about Tony Romo. He’s one of these sort of can’t-miss people.
“Ed Goren who used to run FOX Sports says you can’t teach a personality. And Tony Romo has a personality.”
It’s hard to argue with that assessment. Romo is a particular favorite of the media, regarded as a personality born to regale football fans with amusing anecdotes and astute analysis.
For all of the praise directed at Romo’s potential, though, he’s not the first to be universally hailed as a broadcast savior. It will take months for him to match the rhetorical laurels and flowery prose which accompanied Esiason and former Giants tailback Tiki Barber in their first brushes with pigskin punditry.