Tony Romo spent a decade as one of the NFL's most polarizing players. Despite putting up the stats of a borderline Hall of Famer, there were always haters crowing about his supposed inability to win the big game. Deion Sanders is one of those haters.
But now that he's retired and moved on to the broadcasting booth, Romo is almost universally beloved. Never shy about predicting a play, he is almost always right when he does.
As Romo's first year calling games nears its end, Sports Illustrated has named him its Media Person Of The Year, largely because of the unique insight he brings to the booth. In an interview, Richard Deitsch asked Romo what he's watching when spits out these eerily spot-on play predictions. His answer reveals just how much of a football nerd this guy is.
It’s a hard thing to describe because it also goes to things like: Are they in the red zone? Is it third or first down? Is it situational? Also, given I know some specific systems, I don’t have to watch if someone is blitzing because I know the tendencies for a Rod Marinelli defense—14% of the time they will be putting pressure [on the offense].
I will know if they are coming into a game with a pressure plan or not. My eyes might be going to which linebackers are moving, which nickelback or safety is getting to the line. My eyes might move to the coverage, and then you look at the coverage and you all of sudden find quickly what they could run out of a certain pre-snap look. Then your eyes might take a peak at the defensive ends.
In his playing days, Romo said in the interview, he was always bored when he did interviews with broadcasters. So he tries to do keep players and coaches on their toes with questions like this:
“OK, you guys have been very successful running out of ‘11’ personnel, which is three wide receivers and a tight end, but I see this team plays a lot of ‘Bear’ front, which means they reduce the front so they take three of their four lineman and cover the guards and center so now you can’t pull any of those guys. … What can you do to run the football because there are a lot of challenges against that.”
Asking these kind of questions can really bore his co-workers, Romo admitted, but it leads to great material for the fans, at least those who haven't grown tired of him already.