If Tony Romo is successful, NFL TV analyst culture could change

On Friday, Aug. 25 Tony Romo’s new journey, which will bring as much scrutiny as the one that apparently has ended, begins taking shape when he debuts as CBS’ No. 1 NFL analyst working Chiefs-Seahawks.

CBS hasn’t exactly kept Romo in the Witness Protection Program while he prepares to replace Phil Simms, working with Jim Nantz (they’ve done some practice games), but the former (or is it “former”) Cowboys quarterback can expect plenty of doubt and negativity directed toward him when the microphone goes hot for real.

That’s to be expected. When CBS Sports boss Sean McManus announced he was removing Simms, the likeable veteran voice (he also “inspired” his share of negativity), and replacing him with Romo, a cat with no broadcast booth experience, some naysayers raised questions and criticized the decision.

The negative reaction made sense, but under the circumstances was to be expected. Just as it should be expected that no matter how Romo performs he will catch heat. Romo is entering a biz where there are no wins, losses, or statistics. Success is subjective, based on thousands of opinions, including fans who hate the Cowboys.

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In terms of broadcast history, CBS’ move is an unprecedented gamble. Making a novice your No. 1 voice takes major Scallions. Still, if Romo flames out fast the scenario is highly predictable. He will get a year to prove himself. If it doesn’t work out CBS will spin the failure and move on.

The more interesting outcome — a much more profound one — is if Romo succeeds. If that happens, the traditional rules of hiring talent for top analysts jobs will change. In a copycat business, McManus’ gamble will be mimicked. Giving Romo the No. 1 gig was based on personality, name recognition, a desire to get younger in the booth and potential. Romo projected a big upside and came with intangibles that were BELIEVED before they were SEEN.

If Romo succeeds, the networks will be free to post “No Experience Necessary” signs.

Not long after Romo was introduced as CBS’ No. 1 NFL analyst, Fox Sports hired Jay Cutler, another QB with no broadcast experience, as its No. 2 analyst working with Charles Davis and Kevin Burkhardt. Unfortunately, Cutler took Miami’s $10 million call and is taking his wonderful attitude and powerful arm to the Dolphins.

CBS doubles down on Tony Romo…

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