By his own count, Fox Sportsplay-by-play announcer Kenny Albert has worked with over 250 different color analysts across nine sports, ranging from his Foxteammates Moose Johnston and Laura Okmin to Troy Aikman, Patrick Ewing and Joe Namath.
Since Fox has the NFC TV package, Albert has sat throughmany pre-game production meetings with TonyRomo. He's optimistic the ex-Cowboys quarterbackcan successfully replace Phil Simms as CBS' new No. 1 game analyst ... as long as Romo applies the same the work ethiche did as an undrafted free agent clawing for a job in the NFL.
"He was always one of the morepersonable guys," Albert told Sporting News."Always very outgoing and friendly with great insights on the game whenever we met with him."
In the wake of CBS' Romo hire, Sporting News conducteda round table with four football TVannouncers/insiders.
We asked: Will Romo make viewers forget about Simms, who held the No. 1 CBS job for 20 years before being unceremoniously dumped this week? Or will the mercurial Romo face plant on TV like Ray Lewis, Joe Montana and fellow Cowboys great Emmitt Smith?
Our roundtable: Albert, who works with Fox, NBC and MSG Network; Josina Anderson, ESPN's first female NFL Insider; Tim Brando,longtime play-by-play announcer for Fox, CBS and ESPN;and former Patriots assistant-turned-football analystMike Lombardi of Bill Simmons' The Ringer.
Here's what they said about Romoat CBS.
There areplenty of ex-jocks who think TV is a walk in the park. They don't last.If Romo wants to make it on TV, he mustput in the same preparation he did as an NFL quarterback, according to Albert.
"The top NFL analysts put in so much time during the week, said Albert,"beginning on a Monday morning for a game the following Sunday.Watching film, reading every article that is written about both teams, and then meeting with players and coaches.
"It's not much different than what most players —especially quarterbacks —do in preparing for that week's opponent. Just without the physicality of actually going out on the field for practice and the game.
"That's one reason —aside from personality and the ability to teach and entertain —why I think a number of players have been able to make the transition so quickly from the field to the booth in recent years."
ESPN's first femaleNFL insider has covered Romo over the years. She expects him to have the "same charm and gentleman-like presence" on TV thathe's shownin the past. But first Romo will have to get through the transition period that all TV rookies go through.
"He'll have to get used to looking into the camera,and realizing millions of people are looking back at you," said Anderson.
On the plus side, Romo will hit CBS booth with a wealth of "colorful anecdotes" on "the highs and lows" of playing in the NFL.
"He could use them to illuminate any situation that he's talking about," said Anderson.
On other hand, Romo has zero TV experience. His on-camera personality remains to be seen.
Younever know how somebody will react when the camera lights turn on, Andersonnoted. Can he synthesize the footballinformation in his head into 10-second sound bites? Can he keep viewers entertainedduring lulls in the game?
"I'm confident he'll find his niche," said Anderson."He's the shiny new toy on the market right now. He'll have great people helping him.
"I think the biggest intrigue around him will be how long can he stand the heat? If an opportunity comes availablewhile he's doing (TV), I'm just wondering how much it will heighten the itch to come back, hit the field for old time's sake and help a team get over the hump."
(Josina Anderson, right)
Anderson is curious about whetherCBS has a backup plan in case Romo bolts. And whether his contract provides CBS protection if he returns to the NFL.
Romo might not have had many options beyond going into TV, Anderson noted. From her discussions with various NFL clubs, Anderson didn't find much interest in Romo. Most clubs seriously doubted his ability to get through 16 games in one piece.
"I do think that part of his decision to (do TV) was maybe the market not being what he expected," Anderson said.
Yes, Romo will be another ex-QB in the booth, joining Simms, Troy Aikman, Dan Fouts, Terry Bradshaw,etc. But Anderson wishes TV networks would look outside the box for talent like Ryan Clark of ESPN (a former Steelers defensive back).
"I just know there are a number of examples (like Clark), Anderson said."That's not to say Tony won't do well. Or QBs can't be really great because we obviously have great analysts who are (QBs). But I do think there's a pool of talent they could spend more time vetting and auditioning."
The veteran play-by-play announcer predicts Romo will be a "slam-dunk" for CBS. The question —really, the only question —is how willing he will be to criticize the contemporaries he leaves behind.
"I think he will be really, really good," said Brando.
But that's true for every ex-NFLer who's ever stepped into the broadcast booth.
Brando goes way back with Troy Aikman, Fox Sports' lead NFL game analyst. Brando interviewed Aikman when he was up for the Heisman Trophy at UCLA in 1988.
At the time, thefuture Pro Football Hall of Famer was still a down-home Sooner. Even though he knew Aikman was a leader, he was soft-spoken. He"had no idea" the 3-time Super Bowl winnerwouldbecome as good as he hason TV.
Similarly, Brando believesRomo has many of the "requisite tools" to succeed on TV. The challenge for Romois thatCBS is thrusting right him into the No. 1 color analyst role, rather than letting him get his reps on a No. 2 or No. 3 announce team. Or giving him two partners instead of one.
Simms, for example, cut his teethby working a three-person booth at NBC with old pros Paul Maguire and Dick Enberg in the late 1990s.
"That really helped Phil," Brando said. "Being with a light-hearted guy that could bring out that side of hispersonality was really helpful to (Simms). I can tell you, having worked with Paul Maguire on the USFL in 1985, Paul was the easiest guy on the planet to work with. He was probably the most under-rated guy in the booth, ever, in football. He was Madden without the video games.
"Personality plus. Really knew the game big-time. And had an ease about him that was (Bill) Raftery-esque. He just made everybody around him feel better, both on and off-camera. That helped Phil get started so he would be ready when he became the No. 1 guy at CBS."
Peter King of Sports Illustrated rightly noted that Romo has far more knowledge of the NFC than the AFC. That could be a problem since CBS has the AFC TV package.
But Brando thinks it "may free" Romo up to criticize players and coaches with whichhe's not as familiar.
"A lot of times you find withyounger analysts, if they don't have as strong a relationship with the players that they're covering, they're more willing to be critical. I've noticed that through the years," Brando said.
Like Albert, Brando saysRomo's success or failure will depend onhow much time he's willing to commit to his TV job. Ex-NFL starsmore famous thanRomofound out pretty damn quicklyTV wasn't for them.
Said Brando: "Itdidn't take long for Joe Montana to realize that A) he wasn't completely committed and B) in his own opinion, there were other things he could do in his life besides doing TV.
"These guys find out right away. It really doesn't take long for them to figure out if this is something they truly want to do."
The Ringer's new NFL analyst is very highon Romo's TV chances.
"I think Tony will do really well," Lombardi said."I think he's really knowledgeable about the game. He understands the complexities of the game. The hardest thing to do is explain a complicated sport in less than 20 seconds on those constant breaks. I think he can do it very well."
There's been a movement among TV networks to hire players right off the field who understandtoday's NFL. That will be Romo's strength, said Lombardi.
"He knows the players and he understands the coverages. I think that the most important thing when you're talking about the game. Sometimes the coverages are so complex, that not everyoneunderstands them. He will understand them. I think he will explain the game to the fans in a way they will understand."
During an appearance on "The Bill Simmons Podcast," Lombardi predicted Romo would join a network that would allow him to work golf coverage, as well. Both Romo and CBS boss Sean McManus downplayed that notion during a conferencecall Tuesday.
But CBS has more golf rights than Fox, including this week's Masters tournament. Lombardi proved to be correct with that prediction.