I watched 60 percent of the Raiders’ 26-16 win over Tennessee—Tony Romo’s first game as the CBS number one color man, replacing Phil Simms. I thought Romo was good, and very good in spots. He was right in the X’s and O’s, properly enthusiastic (particularly about Marshawn Lynch’s physicality) and spoke in the kinds of informative staccato bursts that are essential for network color guys. Occasionally, his voice broke, but other than that, Romo sounded like he’d done this before. Examples:
• First Oakland drive, highlighting a rookie in his first NFL game on a big-time Oakland receiver: Romo interrupted Jim Nantz and blurted: “Look at this matchup. That’s the rookie, Adoree’ Jackson, on Amari Cooper.” Three seconds, presaging what was to come three plays later: an 8-yard TD pass from Derek Carr to Cooper, beating Jackson when Jackson gave up on the tackle. The Titans rookie will hear about that from his coaches. “You gotta make that tackle!” Romo yelled. And he was right—Jackson should have finished off the tackle.
• Late first quarter, fourth-and-one for Oakland at the Tennessee 3-yard line, Marshawn Lynch run: As Lynch ran right, linebacker Wesley Woodyard hogtied him and flipped him over—but Lynch, in a veteran move, looked like he stretched the ball for a first down. “Are you kidding me?” Romo said, voice rising. “That should have been stopped! That’s all Marshawn Lynch! I think he got the first down. It’s gonna be close. You have a guy in the backfield with a CLEAN shot on him and he makes him miss. That’s why you go bring back Marshawn Lynch, right there. He’s still Marshawn Lynch.” It was a 75-percent good call … but Romo should have mentioned the guy who missed him in the backfield, Jonathan Cyprien, and the guy who tackled him but allowed him to get the first down, Woodyard.
• He saw things before they happened:Late in the first half, Romo said the Raiders would carefully push the ball downfield to see if they could get into field-goal range without turning it over. They did. He called a Tennessee blitz with 29 seconds left in the half, and here came free safety Kevin Byard on an Oakland screen. And he praised the Raiders’ offensive coordinator, Todd Downing, in his first game as a play-caller, when he called eight straight runs down the stretch, forcing Tennessee to stop Oakland; the Titans couldn’t. “How about this offensive coordinator!” Romo hollered. “”Run, run, run with the game on the line.”
• Romo liked Lynch: Really, who wouldn’t have? Lynch gave Oakland the toughness in the inside running game that Jack Del Rio has longed for. While the Raiders were trying to bleed the clock late, Lynch trucked one of the best defensive tackles in football, 305-pound Jurrell Casey, quite literally knocking Casey over and gaining four more yards. A good color guy has to know when to milk the emotional moment, and this is what Romo said: “BOOM! I’M BACK BABY! I’M BEAST MODE!”
A good debut for Romo, better than I thought I’d hear, with a few things to work on. You can tell his enthusiasm for the game, and his ability to translate football-speak to English, a la Cris Collinsworth. Good start.