Last week, with his shock announcement that he'd be joining CBS No. 1 broadcast team rather than signing on with another NFL team, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo joined a long line of Cowboys who've taken the soft landing of broadcasting. The reactions to Romo's hiring have been mixed. While his teammates have been supportive of the move, many in sports media, like ESPN and CBS-ex Bonnie Bernstein, have questioned Romo's ability to take over one of the hardest jobs in broadcasting without any seasoning.
As Romo begins preparations to call one of the biggest games of each weekend of the 2017 NFL season with Jim Nantz, let's take a look at how some of the Cowboys' former big names have done when they've gone from in front of the camera to behind the mic.
Dandy Don turns out the lights. — Following his retirement from the Cowboys in 1968, quarterback Don Meredith signed up for Howard Cosell's Monday Night Football booth before the 1970 season. Meredith's work for ABC was folksy, listenable and often humorous — he infamously commented on former Cleveland Browns receiver Fair Hooker by saying "Fair Hooker ... well, I haven't met one yet!" — if not particularly insightful by today's standards. When he quit broadcasting after the 1984 season, Meredith was best known for singing "turn out the lights, the party's over," a Willie Nelson line, whenever the game he was calling got out of hand.
Troy Aikman is big time — Troy Aikman is the closest analog to Romo in the Cowboys' recent past. After retiring in 2000, Aikman joined Fox. After spending a single season on the network's No. 2 broadcast team, Aikman began calling Fox's game of the week with Joe Buck in 2001. Aikman is appropriately good looking for TV work, has a nice voice and is knowledgeable, if a little too eager to agree with Buck. Unlike Romo, who will call no more than a couple Cowboys games each year thanks to CBS' primarily televising AFC games, Aikman is forced to comment on his old team six or seven times a season. He does a good job with it though, striking enough of a balance that fans on all sides think he hates their team.
Daryl Johnston led blocks for Kenny Albert — After retiring due to a neck injury after the 1999 season, former Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston parlayed his status as cult figure among fans into a job on Fox NFL broadcasts in 2001. Working with first Dick Stockton and then Kenny Albert, Johnston has worked on Fox's second or third team ever since. Johnston is a perfectly capable announcer, but he's stuck with Albert, a bad baseball announcer who's even worse at calling football. Of all the ex-Cowboys in this article, Johnston, who did his best work blocking for Emmitt Smith, has done a lot with a little, turning his limited stats into a cushy broadcasting gig.
Emmitt Smith defies translation — In 2007, ESPN offered Smith a role on its NFL pre-game show. Smith showed none of his legendary prowess as running back as an announcer. He was full of cliches, prone to malapropisms and a frequent target for ridicule during his stint at the network. Thankfully for Smith and those watching, ESPN did not renew his contract after the 2009 season.
Michael Irvin does his job — After his mid-season retirement in 1998, the always-brash Irvin was hired by ESPN to be brash on Monday Night Countdown. Irvin proved more than up to the challenge and eventually moved on to the NFL Network. However obvious or non-nonsensical his opinion might be, Irvin never fails to speak his mind.
Babe stays in the picture — Babe Laufenberg started exactly one game for the Cowboys. He played just four years in the NFL, primarily as a backup quarterback, yet he's managed to make himself a fixture in DFW, both as the Cowboys radio color commentator and during an extended run as KTVT's sports director. With Brad Sham, Laufenberg makes up half of one of the best radio teams in the NFL. Autumn afternoons when one's away from the TV wouldn't be the same without him.
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