The Cowboys welcomed Tony Romo back to Dallas on Sunday, but in a very different capacity. Romo called the Chiefs vs. Cowboys game in his new role as the color guy for CBS. His familiarity with Dallas made it fascinating.
Since he stepped into the booth, Romo has made a habit of predicting plays. Dak Prescott said this week that he hoped Romo wouldn’t give away too much about the Cowboys offense. Early in the game, Romo seemed hesitant to say too much when breaking down the Cowboys’ plays. But he settled in.
While he kept his familiarity with the playbook under wraps, his connection with his former teammates was evident. Announcers typically use a player’s last name or their first and last names. But Romo spent years playing alongside most of these guys. He was on a first-name basis with them in the huddle and on the sidelines, and still was despite his new job.
Dak. Dez. It was only a season ago that this was the norm for Romo.
His familiarity with the Cowboys wasn’t limited to using first names for his former teammates. Romo gave us a little taste of what it’s like playing for head coach Jason Garrett, shared some insight into the qualities that make his former teammates unique, and even explained a little bit more about the venue he knows so well.
He talked in detail about Jason Garrett’s culture and how he approaches his relationships with players.
“He wants to see balance,” Romo said of his former coach. “He is about culture, environment. he believes in motivating. He wants to motivate players.”
He shared that Sean Lee isn’t just a great linebacker, but his football knowledge is “off the charts.” Jason Witten, who played many a snap with Romo, got some love from his former quarterback too. On a read option play from Dak Prescott, he took the time to point out that Witten was "the best blocking tight end in the National Football League."
Romo also had thoughts on how the sunlight hits the field in AT&T Stadium.
Tony Romo says dealing with the sun at AT&T Stadium is overblown. Said it doesn't really bother QBs. Bigger problem for WRs.— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 5, 2017
And he shared an (obvious) observation about the obnoxiously large Jumbotron in Dallas.
Tony Romo on JerryWorld Jumbotron: "It's so big," everyone always looking up there.— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) November 5, 2017
Fact check: True
Romo also might have sounded a little wistful about the Cowboys defense. David Irving is healthy, Demarcus Lawrence is dominant, and the Cowboys rank fifth in the NFL in sacks this year with 25. Romo said that this unit is “different,” and not what people were expecting coming into the season.
He didn’t get to spend too many seasons with the Cowboys defense as healthy as it is now.
He was less complimentary of the unit after Tyreek Hill’s wild 56-yard touchdown play. Romo said the Dallas defense was “a little too soft” when they let Hill get into the end zone.
Anyone who was expecting Romo to sound like a Dallas homer may have been disappointed on that play. Romo may have been more excited on this touchdown than any other play he’s called this season.
Romo also had high praise for Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. He called Kelce “special, just as much” as Jason Witten. Maybe it was good luck, because Kelce scored a touchdown almost immediately afterward.
And Romo didn’t shy away from making a joke at the expense of another Cowboys great. He said that Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters made Deion Sanders look like a good tackler.
Romo’s insight in the booth is always incisive and refreshing. He may not have been telling us what play was coming before it did — though he certainly could have — but he took it to another level in his first game doing play-by-play for his former team, establishing a deeper connection to the players on the field that you just don’t get from the average broadcaster.