Former CBS announcer Phil Simms always seemed a little overwhelmed by the idea of talking intelligently about football games. This wouldn’t have been a problem had it not been the literal definition of his job. Instead, Simms and the countless other broadcasters and ex-players who get paid thousands of dollars to talk about the football in real time have long portrayed the intricacies of NFL strategy as being not only unknowable to the average, dunderheaded football fan but also beyond the comprehension of pretty much anyone alive save the coaches actively involved in the game.
For a long time – and with only a few exceptions – this broadcaster incompetence has been the name of the NFL color commenting game. Whether it was due to stubborn network loyalty or the NFL vastly underestimating the cognitive abilities of its fans, Simms and his similarly bumbling colleagues never had to answer for their ineptitude. The NFL, a multi-billion dollar enterprise whose business model revolves around televised sporting events, seemed content with the clowns that they trotted out as announcers, refraining from upgrading the televised aspect of those all-important sporting events. In a nationally broadcast example of the Peter principle, Simms seemed likely to announce games until the end of time, infuriating fans all the while.
Then Tony Romo showed up in the booth and blew that shit up.
It turns out that football is a game of immense repetition and that, if you pay attention, you can start to get a feel for what might be coming next. Perhaps my favorite part of Romo replacing Simms and immediately being one thousand times better at his job than his predecessor is that, in Romo’s mind at least, anyone who’s watched enough football – and it’s worth noting here that Simms, like Romo, is a former quarterback who’s spent his entire life around the game – should be able to diagram a play before the snap without any trouble at all. You’ll recall that Simms was utterly incapable of doing things like this:
Tony Romo nails another one. Now he's just showing off. pic.twitter.com/dONFODL3tV
— Ƒunhouse (@BackAftaThis) September 17, 2017
The killing blow comes at the 30-second mark of this clip from Week 1, when Jim Nantz – who is audibly impressed by the massive upgrade in the seat next to him – asks Romo how he was able to identify the play prior to the snap. Romo’s response is freaking perfect for both its understated honesty and its brutal evisceration of not only Simms but also every other hack broadcaster: Romo laughs and then says, “I’ve seen football in the NFL for 14 years.” Romo wasn’t on camera for that moment but it seems safe to assume that he took the opportunity to drop his mic.
What’s astonishing isn’t how great Romo is in the booth,1 nor is it that he totally rocks that CBS embroidered sport coat, it’s how long it took the NFL and the league’s broadcast partners to realize – or more likely care – that fans might want spend three hours listening to someone who can offer some insight rather than the garbled word vomit of Simms and his ilk. It’d be nice to think that all parties involved have learned their lessons but the reality is that they’ve probably just luckily stumbled into something good as Romo fell into their laps. But whatever the cause, enjoy this while it lasts: the Simms era is dead. Long live the Romo.