Tony Romo is leaving football and stepping over, er, into Phil Simms’ spot in the CBS broadcast booth.
The veteran Dallas Cowboys quarterback retired Tuesday and will replace Simms as the lead NFL analyst for CBS, along side Jim Nantz.
“It was a very difficult decision. I went back and forth a number of times,” Romo said during conference call.
It was speculated that Romo — whose injury in the preseason led the way to the emergence of rookie Dak Prescott under center in Dallas — could continue playing this year in either Houston or Denver, but retirement and a plum job as CBS were too enticing to pass up.
“It really had nothing to do with the Texans and everything to do with CBS,” Romo said. “I felt like it was the right decision. My wife would tell you we’ve had a lot of late nights. It was nice to have some clarity. … Do I envision playing football? Absolutely not. Do I expect to get some calls? Yes, that’s the reality.”
Sources told ESPN and NFL Network that if teams, including the Cowboys, requested Romo to fill in for an injured starter as an emergency replacement, he would consider returning to the league. It is unclear if Romo’s contract with CBS would preclude him from leaving his new gig on short notice.
Romo, who never played in the Super Bowl during his 13-year NFL career, will work with Nantz on Thursday and Sunday games and is now in line to work as the color commentator for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in 2019.
“Going from one legendary team to another as I begin the next phase of my career is a dream come true,” Romo added earlier in a statement. “I have always known that once my playing career was over I wanted to become a broadcaster. I am ecstatic for the opportunity to work with Jim as I learn the craft and convey to fans my passion for this great game.”
ESPN first reported news of the signal caller’s career change.
“We wish Tony and his family nothing but the best,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said in a statement. “As an organization, we did what he asked us to do in terms of his release, and we wanted to do what was ultimately in his best interest and in the best interest of his family. … We are thrilled for him and his family that he will be able to continue working as a professional in the game he so dearly loves. He is a young man who is just getting started on a long journey in life. All the best my friend.”
Fox Sports had previously expressed interest in hiring Romo to succeed new 49ers GM John Lynch as its No. 2 analyst, but CBS outbid them. Simms, who has been with CBS since 1998, is currently in talks with the network about his future.
“Phil has been a very important part of our coverage since the NFL returned to CBS in 1998,” said CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus. “His strong opinions, coupled with his tremendous knowledge and passion for the National Football League, has created a unique broadcasting style making him one of the best analysts to ever call the game. We are discussing with Phil his future role with CBS Sports.”
The soon-to-be 37-year-old Romo believes the time is right to pursue a new line of work.
“Tony competes to the end in everything that he does,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “… It has been one of the great privileges of my life to work with Tony Romo, one of the greatest players in Dallas Cowboys history.”
The Romo news didn’t sit well with everyone in the media as former CBS sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein blasted the hiring.
“Tony Romo, w ZERO broadcast experience, reportedly replacing Phil Simms on CBS’ #1 NFL game crew. No offense. But that’s total crap,” Bernstein tweeted.
Dallas had for months attempted to trade Romo following Prescott rookie rise. But after the Texans and Broncos, who were the favorites to land Romo, failed to strike a deal, the Cowboys instead opted to cut him.
Romo, an undrafted four-time Pro Bowler, had struggled with serious injuries in recent years. He suffered his first collarbone break in 2010, followed by two more collarbone fractures during the 2015 season, when he started just four games.
Romo broke a bone in his back during a preseason game last year, which opened the door for Prescott, the team’s fourth-round draft pick in 2016, and soon made the veteran expendable.
Romo, who played all of his 156 games with the Cowboys, is the franchise leader in both touchdowns (248) and passing yards (34,183).