ATLANTA – A good but hardly great quarterback in his 13 years with the Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo has needed less than two seasons to reach the pinnacle of his new gig as the man who brought to the sports analyst profession what high-definition brought to picture clarity.
Once a scrambling, sometimes fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants quarterback, Romo the CBS game analyst deciphers a defense with such pre-snap precision that he consistently tells us not only what we’ve seen but what we’re about to see.
Play-by-play partner Jim Nantz has introduced the word “Romostradamus” to the NFL lexicon. Upset Chiefs fans are still wanting to know why fired defensive coordinator Bob Sutton didn’t see what Romo was seeing down the stretch in Kansas City’s AFC Championship Game loss to New England.
And the funniest coach in America, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, delivered the best of the many lighthearted jabs that Romo has been getting since his standout performance in calling the AFC title game.
When Phillips was asked what he’ll do to deal with the Patriots’ unpredictability, Romo’s former Cowboys head coach joked that he’ll request an ear piece that’s tuned to Romo’s call of the game.
“That’s probably not a good idea,” Romo said Tuesday during CBS’ pre-Super Bowl news conference in Atlanta.
CBS trotted out all of its lead on-air and behind-the-scenes talent Tuesday. Romo, obviously, was the center of attention. He clearly was uncomfortable with the whole “Romostradamus” promotion from his employer and line of questioning from reporters.
Asked by Nantz to describe what it felt like to watch the game back and see how consistently he predicted a play before it happened, Romo drew laughs by saying, “I don’t remember. I blacked out.”
According to the New Yorker, which went back and reviewed the Chiefs game, Romo predicted 15 plays down the stretch and was right on 13 of them. The highlight was spotting Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in favorable coverage out wide and accurately predicting what pass would come if the safety came down, which the safety did a split second later.
“I feel like you’re just watching the game,” Romo said. “And you’re just kind of going through and you have so many years of experience, you kind of just, your passion comes out and you just start talking. And you kind of just say what you see and you get lucky once in a while. I don’t think it’s anything deeper than that, other than you get lucky once in a while.”
That’s admirable of him to say. But nobody’s buying it. They’re more inclined to buy Nantz’s description of Romo as “some kind of sick film guru.”
He’s known to watch as much film as any coach. And, speaking of which …
“I’m sure one day I will coach,” Romo said. “But right now I’m just happy with where I’m at. I’m lucky to be here calling the Super Bowl. I got three young boys at home. I want to be around them and watch them grow.”
One reporter teased Romo by asking if he should be working for the Weather Channel.
“They pay more,” he said. “Just kidding.”
And, of course, Romo was asked to predict the score of the game. Not the winner. Just the score.
“I’ll keep playing my novelty act here,” said Romo, sans turban and crystal ball. “I’m going to go 28-24. And I think the team that has 24 has the ball at the end and doesn’t score.”
That sent Nantz howling.
“Romostradamus!” he said. “Out early on Tuesday at the Super Bowl!”
Romo then poked fun at himself again, adding another two predictions.
“I think Tom Brady is going to throw the ball on one of the early third downs,” he said. “You will not see sprint right option out of Brady.”
All teasing aside, Romo enhances the viewing experience. He should make the Super Bowl even better.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org