After weeks of speculation that he would be traded to the Broncos or the Texans, or even possibly return for another season as the Cowboys’ backup, Tony Romo has decided he will play for no one.
The longtime Cowboys quarterback, who lost his job last season to rookie Dak Prescott, has retired from the NFL and become CBS’ lead NFL analyst, replacing former Giants quarterback Phil Simms for the marquee announcing job.
But while Romo expressed excitement about his new gig, he didn’t slam the door on playing again. On a conference call Tuesday, he said he received several inquiries during the offseason from quarterback-needy teams. He said he’s “99 percent” certain he’s done playing, but added “never say never.”
“I don’t envision coming out (to play again),” Romo, 36, said. “I’m going to get in the booth and I’m going to like it.
But he referenced Nick Saban’s statements about never coaching at Alabama, only to take over there in 2007, and Brett Favre’s return to the NFL after two retirement announcements.
“I don’t know if the competitive fire is ever going away,” Romo said. “But I would also argue that for me, I’m a person who really likes to attack things. If this was something I didn’t think I wanted to do, I wouldn’t be making this decision. I’m excited about this craft. I understand the challenges ahead. If (I’m) not very good, I can tell you that I won’t be sleeping very well.”
The Cowboys released Romo on Tuesday, so he will not have to repay any signing bonus money from his final contract. If he were so inclined, he could strike a deal with another team. Romo said the Texans were “at the top of the list” of prospective teams interested in him. He wouldn’t identify any other teams who reached out to him, but the Broncos also were an option.
Romo said he purposely did not meet with any teams, for fear he might change his mind about going into broadcasting.
“I know my nature and I know my competitive side,” he said. “If I get in front of some of these teams, then you’re going to be very enticed to want to go play. I know that’s going to be there. It’s always going to be in someone’s DNA who’s played the position. I’m going to a team (at CBS), and I have to go practice and get better. That’s exciting. It’s not that different. That’s why I made the call early.”
Romo will team with Jim Nantz and replace Simms, 61, who was on the job for nearly 20 years. CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said Simms remains under contract, and that CBS hopes to use him in an as yet unspecified role, perhaps continuing as a game analyst.
“Phil has been a very important part of our coverage since the NFL returned to CBS in 1998,” McManus said. “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 cannot thank him enough for the way he has represented himself and CBS Sports during his tenure as CBS’s lead NFL analyst.”
Romo, 36, played only five games the past two seasons because of a broken collarbone in 2015 and a broken bone in his back in 2016. Last year’s injury, which occurred during preseason, led to Prescott, a fourth-round rookie out of Mississippi State, taking over the starter’s job. He never lost it, even when Romo was healthy enough to return later in the season. Prescott led Dallas to the NFC East title before losing to the Packers in the divisional round.
Romo made the Cowboys’ roster in 2004 as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois and won the starting job in 2006. He helped the Cowboys reach the playoffs that year, Bill Parcells’ final season as coach. But they lost to the Seahawks, 21-20, after Romo bobbled the snap on what would have been a 19-yard field-goal try with 1:19 to play.
Romo was 78-49 as a starter and is Dallas’ all-time leader in passing yards (34,183) and TD passes (248), having surpassed Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman in both categories.
Romo said in November that he understood the Cowboys’ decision to keep Prescott as the starter, but that he still wanted to continue playing.
“If you think for a second that I don’t want to be out there, then you’ve probably never felt the ecstasy of competing and winning,” Romo told reporters. “That hasn’t left me. In fact, it may burn more now than ever. It’s not always easy to watch and I think anyone who has been in this position understands that.”
The Broncos and Texans showed the most interest in Romo after the season. Denver missed the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl in Peyton Manning’s final season. Trevor Siemian beat out Mark Sanchez for the starter’s job last year, when the Broncos went 9-7.
Siemian enters 2017 as the starter, but the Broncos could go with Paxton Lynch, a first-round pick out of Memphis last season. Broncos general manager John Elway indicated he might take a chance on Romo, but only if the Cowboys had released him.
The Texans, who made the playoffs despite uninspired quarterback play by former Broncos backup Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage. The Texans beat the Raiders in the wild-card round and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots.
Tony Romo’s career numbers:
Seasons as Cowboys starting QB
Record vs. Giants
TDs and Sacks