Everyone loves to talk about the quarterback position during the NFL offseason. They speculate on how much money a mediocre QB will get in free agency or which draft prospect has the best chance to become a franchise cornerstone. But this past offseason, the most interesting quarterback moves revolved around the announcer’s booth when Tony Romo and Jay Cutler announced they will broadcast NFL games instead of joining a team.
Networks love hiring quarterbacks as color commentators for their broadcasts, presumably because the position requires an in-depth knowledge of both offensive and defensive schemes and an ability to read situations. But does that really mean every quarterback should become an announcer?
Let’s take Romo and Cutler, for instance. Cutler is best known as the apathetic quarterback of the Chicago Bears who spent most of his career with a blank expression on the sidelines. Is that attitude really what fans are expecting from color commentators? And does anyone know anything about Romo’s personality? Can you name a memorable Romo interview clip? Cutler and Romo are the most vanilla personalities ever, and yet they just received lucrative announcing contracts with absolutely no experience.
And it’s not like quarterbacks have a perfect track record as color commentators. Joe Theismann lasted only one season as an announcer on Monday Night Football. Phil Simms is one of the most criticized announcers in all of sports, and just received a demotion at CBS in favor of Romo. And while Troy Aikman may not receive the hate and criticism as much as others, you won’t find many people praising him as one of the greatest of all-time.
We have this illusion that quarterbacks are field generals, standing behind center playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. But that’s hardly the case. Just look at Cris Collinsworth, a man who Al Michaels just called the best analyst in history. He was a mildly successful wide receiver during his playing days in the NFL. But in the broadcast booth, he’s one of the best at explaining the game and informing his audience about the ins and outs of what’s happening on the field. Quarterbacks may be the generals on the field, but that hardly means they’re the only ones who understand what’s going on.
The most important factor that leads to a successful broadcaster is personality. John Madden, Frank Gifford, Collinsworth and all the other great commentators weren’t just knowledgeable about what’s happening on the field, they also knew how to entertain their audience. They knew how to balance humor and analysis to keep their audiences engaged. You never hear someone compliment an announcer for being completely humorless and robotic, and at the same time guys who focus too much on playing the comedian in the booth often end up with short tenures. Announcing is very much an art form that takes years to perfect.
Perhaps with time, Romo and Cutler will discover what it takes to become a great broadcaster. But there’s really no evidence available that suggests either of them are secretly incredibly charming on-air personalities just waiting to be unleashed upon the world.
Perhaps the real issue is our society has become so pathetically obsessed with famous faces and the allure of the “celebrity.” It’s all about the continuing worship. Period.
Well, at least Cutler and Romo will finally know what it feels like to work during the postseason.
Photo credit: Creative Commons