“I just tell you it’s about 99 percent,” he said, referring to his commitment to sticking with CBS in the long term.
He jokingly added, “If for some crazy reason Sean McManus decided to fire me, I guess I’d have to think about playing in a small golf tournament or a flag football game.”
Romo, who has played in parts of only five games over the last two seasons (and only one game in 2016), talked excitedly about his new gig with CBS. He confirmed other networks also head-hunted him after the season ended, but that he chose CBS after they offered the most competitive offer, which will also allow him the chance to do golf broadcasts, too.
“I felt a real connection with the CBS group and I just felt at this time the opportunity to work with them, it’s really a gift and a privilege,” he said.
The decision to go with Romo, who admitted to never having even done a dry run with Nantz, is a “manageable risk,” McManus said on the call, but one he thinks will prove worth it.
“I think Tony will be having all sorts of work this summer,” he said, referring to Romo’s need to practice for the upcoming season by analyzing team practices and preseason games, as well as watching game tape. “Will he be better Week 6 than Week 1? Yes, he will be … but if we didn’t have the faith in Tony that he could be an outstanding analyst, we wouldn’t be taking this risk.”
Romo likened his new broadcast career to when he first joined the NFL.
“I don’t think it’s going to be easy,” he said of the learning curve. “I expect it to be difficult, [but] no different than when I came into the NFL to be a quarterback.”
Romo will be replacing Simms, a genial man whose commentary always drew scathing criticism from viewers. McManus confirmed Simms remains under contract with CBS and said that the network is actively trying to find a new role for Simms as the season approaches.
“We’re hoping that Phil can remain part of the CBS team,” he said.
Romo’s move to CBS was first reported by the Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, who also points out that this is CBS’s season to broadcast the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving game.
When asked whether his fondness for the Cowboys will influence his commentary, Romo couldn’t say no, although he promised to be as objective as he could.
“My feelings are that I’m always going to feel the need to want to talk up the Cowboys,” he said.
“They are your friends. I’m going to want them to succeed,” he continued. “[But] if the Cowboys are struggling, we’re going to talk about them struggling. … I’ll be fine critiquing players. It’s not all going to perfect and it’s not all going to bad. … I think I’ll be fine.”
While many believe age and long-term health played a bit part in Romo’s decision, the 36-year-old denied that in the call, noting he’s the healthiest he’s been in “three or four years.” Romo, who will turn 37 this month, did not talk about his history of serious back injuries, but he did mention his family as playing a role in his decision. He is expecting his third child with his wife and he apparently decided that it’s time to make a serious decision about the rest of his life.
Romo was adamant that he was not “forced” out of football, but that this was his choice. He said had plenty of opportunities for a fresh start in a highly competitive field for former jocks, including with the Houston Texans, which seemed the most likely destination. The Denver Broncos were also a possibility. However, the longer the Cowboys kept him on the roster, the more broadcast rumors heated up.
McManus said talks began with Romo in the last two weeks, but it wasn’t until the last two weeks that they became serious. It was on Monday night when the final deal was hammered out.
Romo’s future in football came into question last season when his tenure with the Cowboys began to end after he was injured during a preseason game last August and could not win back the Cowboys’ starting job from Dak Prescott. He was a valuable asset as a backup and mentor to Prescott, but an enormous contract and salary-cap hit made it impossible for the Cowboys to keep him. Still, it wasn’t clear that Romo would be able to walk away, given his comments last fall about how badly he wanted to play.
“If you think for a second that I don’t want to be out there, then you’ve probably never felt the pure ecstasy of competing and winning,” he said, reading from a statement he had prepared. “That hasn’t left me. In fact, it may burn now more than ever.”
On Tuesday, Romo appeared to be at peace with his decision to remain off the field, even if he couldn’t definitely say he would never play again.
“I wish I could tell you unequivocally for the rest of my life that I wont play … [but] do I envision coming back to football? Absolutely not.”
According to ESPN, Romo will be designated a post-June 1 release, which would mean that he would count $10.7 million against the salary cap this year and $8.9 million in 2018, rather than $24.7 million in 2017. The $14 million pickup in cap space would become available June 2.
His decision caps a playing career that began in 2003 when he was an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois who chose the Cowboys over the Broncos. In the sixth game of the 2006 season, Bill Parcells sent Romo into a game against the New York Giants at halftime. He went on to lead the Cowboys to a playoff berth and held down the starting job until last summer. Despite a 78-49 career record, Romo four times failed to get the Cowboys past the divisional round of the playoffs. Romo, who spent his entire career with the team, is the Cowboys’ all-time leader in passing yards with 34,183 and touchdown passes with 248.
Since 2013, however, back injuries have been a concern. That year he twice had back surgeries, including a discectomy. He twice fractured his transverse process in 2014, but missed only one game. In 2015, he broke and then rebroke his left collarbone and appeared in only four games. He suffered a broken left collarbone against the Philadelphia Eagles and missed seven games.
He underwent collarbone surgery a year ago but suffered a compression fracture in his back in a preseason game and did not play until the regular-season finale, where what turned out to be his final pass was the perfect end to his career.