Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes may have been the most valuable player in the AFC championship game, but Tony Romo was once again the star.
Since swapping out his Cowboys jersey for a CBS blazer back in 2017 (on in Sunday’s case, a heavy CBS coat), Romo has quickly become a fan-favorite for his unique mix of enthusiasm, clairvoyance, and playfulness. All three were on display Sunday during the Chiefs 35-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC championship game, which Romo called alongside play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz.
In fact, Romo was so on his game, at one point it appeared he called a penalty on the Titans. During the fourth quarter, Romo noticed the Titans had 12 players on the field, a fact that had gone unnoticed by officials. Several minutes later, following a Titans timeout, the referees finally noticed and threw a very-late flag on Tennessee.
“They could have just heard us say it and said, ‘Hey listen, by the way someone say we had 12 out there,’ ” Romo said, attempting to explain why it took so long for officials to throw a penalty flag. He also had a bit of fun at the ref’s expense, basically offering his own version of a bad lip reading.
In addition to his ability to predict plays, one of Romo’s big strengths as a broadcaster is to break down what’s happening on the field in informative ways while avoiding clunky football nomenclature. That happened during the fourth quarter, when Romo walked viewers through a Chiefs’ play where Tyreek Hill was used to draw single coverage on Mecole Hardman, drawing a pivotal pass interference penalty late in the game.
Romo was also quick to defend Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who was maligned for years during his tenure coaching the Eagles for his tendency to lean heavily on the passing game while sometimes ignoring the running game altogether, despite a backfield that at times included Brian Westbook and LeSean McCoy.
“People were getting on Andy Reid years ago with the Philadelphia Eagles for never running the football. The analytics started to change, everyone in the world says, ‘Well, yeah, you really shouldn’t run it that much, unless you’re a great running team,’ “ Romo said on The NFL Today pregame show prior to kickoff. “Andy Reid was ahead of that. That’s what I love about him. He’s always staying ahead of the curve.”
Romo now has a choice to make. His contract is up at CBS, and ESPN is reportedly ready to offer him $10-14 million a year to join Monday Night Football (media reports peg his current annual salary around $4 million). CBS and ESPN have declined to comment, but it’s hard to imagine Romo jumping ship, especially since CBS will once again air the Super Bowl in 2021 and their slate of 4:25 p.m. Sunday games remains far superior to what the NFL gives ESPN.