For the umpteenth time (OK, the ninth in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era), the New England Patriots will be playing in the Super Bowl. One man may be all that stands between casual viewers and Patriots fatigue when the game kicks off Feb. 3.
That man is CBS's color commentator, Tony Romo. The broadcasting star has never been more popular after a second strong season that reached a zenith in his call of the AFC championship game Sunday. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback knew all, saw all and was unafraid to call it before it happened. Romo appeared so adept at predicting play-calls that his partner, Jim Nantz, admiringly noted that Tom Brady "saw what you saw" as he killed a play at the line of scrimmage.
PHOTO GALLERY: See photos from last weekend's NFL conference championship games at the end of this story
Romo's knack for saying what would happen before it happened went viral Sunday, prompting another wave of complimentary headlines.
"My partner had to have been, in his Cowboy days, some sort of sick film room guru who took the time that was needed to completely solve the puzzle," Nantz said during a conference call Wednesday. "He and Tom Brady are seeing the same thing. People think Tony is a fortune teller, but this isn't guess work and it isn't psychic ability."
As if they didn't before, everyone wants to be in the Romo business now, another bit of excellent timing because his contract with CBS is up after next season. Already the network, according to the New York Post, is pursuing an extension that would increase his $4 million annual salary. And there have reportedly been offers to return to football in some capacity, as well. It's pretty heady stuff for a 38-year-old whose retirement from football was precipitated by serious back injuries.
"The funny thing is, I'm still a part of the game," Romo told reporters when asked about the matter during the conference call. "It's not like you're removed from the game. I felt the energy, the stuff you love about the game; you feel that when you're an analyst. I never say never to anything . . . [but] I love where my life is. I'm sure, at some point, 25 years from now, you'll want to do something competitive in that regard, but I feel very happy and comfortable. I like where I'm at. I really enjoy the schedule. I have three young boys. I have a wife. So, I don't think about that right now at all. No."
Asked if he'd received job offers, he was able to reply with the kind of self-deprecating humor that has helped make him a natural in the booth. "Yeah, just from CBS," he said. "They said I could work the Super Bowl."
If there's been any criticism of Romo, it has mostly centered around an excitability that some viewers see as a liability, or at least a distraction. Although Nantz said that Romo prepares exhaustively for games, the former quarterback explained: "I try not to predetermine too much stuff because the game is a story and you've just got to call it. I'm really talking out loud. There's no real big planned thing. There's no plan of doing it."
That can lead to yips and yelps sometimes, and Romo admitted to getting "passionate and excited in the moment."
"I'm excited like everybody else at home, like, this is such a big deal," Romo said in the call. "And then, you know, I just want to talk about people who do great things and just, I don't know, I love when people are able to do something special. And I want to communicate that to people and let them know. And then just study the game, and you just love it so much that you just kind of get into it a little bit when it's going."
And that bodes well for Super Bowl LIII.