Melissa’s Monday Musings: Tony Romo May Have Found His True Calling

If the NFL’s Week 1 product was auditioning for, well, anything, it would have zero shot at a callback. In fact, upon the NFL’s exit the judges would have let out that burst of laughter they had such trouble keeping in while the games were in progress. Injuries, blowouts, and a litany of awful quarterback performances did little to make a splash. Last year, 11 Week 1 games were decided by less than a touchdown. This year? 2. The lack of compelling football was a huge thump after months of endless hype. The good news: it’s one week and many of the top-flight teams that were exposed for holes and schematic issues are likely to adjust.

But we’re still talking about the NFL where even in a down week there are plenty of musings to be had. Let us start with a happy one…

All Hail Tony Romo

I’m not sure why my expectations for Romo the broadcaster were so low. Perhaps it was internal protection from the heartache that often defined Romo the football player. Or maybe it was because he was paired with Jim Nantz who only speaks like he’s in a library housed on a golf course.

Thankfully my instincts were way off because Romo the broadcaster is an instant rock star. In analyzing the Raiders-Titans game, Romo was energetic, engaging and concise. He was also prescient on playcalling. This will be an audible. That will be a left sweep. If anything in particular sets Romo apart from other analysts its his modernity. He clearly knows the here and now of the NFL in facets ranging from schematics to the rulebook. (Seriously, how many analysts are still carrying around a version from 1985?)

Most of all, Romo sounded like a kid on a candy store who just landed his dream job. I loved pretty much everything he had to say, and how he said it.

Two moments particularly stood out:

Late in the 4th quarter Marshawn Lynch barreled over All-Pro DT Jurrell Casey for six yards to help seal the Raiders win. Romo, exhibiting Jon Gruden level adrenaline emphatically declared: “Lynch just said, BOOM, I’m back baby. I’m BEAST MODE!” As a viewer it got me even more engaged in the moment.

A few plays later Raiders placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio officially cemented the win when he kicked a 43-yard field goal. The cameras then panned to longtime kicker Sebastian Janikowski who is injured. Romo first cracked a joke: “Janikowski looks thrilled” when he looked anything but. Nantz then pulled out his Polish violin, mentioning that it be tough for Janikowski to be observe his probable successor. Romo of all people went on a fascinating little soliloquy about Janikowski needing to accept fate and that it may ultimately be to his benefit in some form. If someone else substituted the names the names Janikowski and Tavecchio for Romo and Prescott the commentary wouldn’t have skipped a beat.

Now if only Romo could slip Nantz some pregame caffeine, I’d put him in the Broadcasting Hall of Fame today.


BAD Quarterbacks

What an embarrassing day under center for Tom Savage, Scott Tolzien, Andy Dalton, Brian Hoyer and even Josh McCown. I’m quasi-tempted to put Mike Glennon in this group but he literally has three strands of spaghetti as a wide receiver corps these days.

The lack of mobility is particularly frustrating when it comes to Hoyer and Glennon. Neither has an upper echelon offensive line but they just crumble at the slightest pressure. You don’t have to specialize in mobility to keep plays alive (see Derek Carr, Alex Smith).

As for Savage and Tolzien there’s really nothing to say. It’s easier to rail on any one of these guys (and believe me, I did) but the reality is unchanged. There just aren’t many franchise QBs floating around. It is odd in the case of Houston that Bill O’Brien opted to start the season with Savage over Deshaun Watson. The Texans offensive line may be the worst in football but overall it’s not like they were planning to tank this season like the Jets. Given this and the push for Brock Osweiler last season O’Brien is hardly making his case as a master QB talent observer.

Missing Colin Kaeperick

If Week 1 didn’t provide enough evidence that Kaepenrick should be on a roster, please consider new eyeballs.

Some Early NFL Awards (Because why not?)

MVP: Alex Smith, Chiefs

We’re 14 of 16 games into Week 1 and Smith has my early vote for MVP. He is leading the league in passing yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and passer rating. Also, his team is one of a handful that is convincingly going somewhere. There is about a 4% chance Smith walks away with the award but for now it’s fun to say and have actual evidence to back it up.

Coach of the Year: Sean McVay, Rams

Under the tutelage of McVay, Jared Goff suddenly looks like a legitimate quarterback on the path to franchise status. McVay worked extensively with Goff on mechanics, touch, pocket poise and general film study. Also as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, McVay left the team over the weekend to accompany Rams brass to Aaron Donald’s Pittsburgh home and sell him on returning before a mega contract is signed. Donald finally reported Saturday, passed his physical and will play Week 2.

Defensive Player of the Year: Calais Campbell, Jaguars

Campbell made a splashy Jags debut by recording a whopping 3.5 in the first half alone, a franchise record for a game. Granted, the Colts offensive line may be the first in NFL history but Campbell is already proving a key cog on a disruptive defensive line.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kareem Hunt, Chiefs

The kids collected 246 yards from scrimmage, the most ever by a rookie in his first game.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I’m aware this is a ridiculous exercise and will be vastly different at this time next week.)

In Bill We Trust?

The Patriots defensive front was atrocious Thursday night. Alex Smith could have gone home, watched the entire Stars Wars trilogy, waited 20 minutes for an Uber, been redirected by security at Gillette Stadium, eventually re-entered the huddle and still would’ve felt no pressure. Common logic in the wake of their torching is to calm down. Belichick is this generation’s most schematic genius. He’ll figure it and out and readjust personnel. This is well and good and probably true but it is also possible Belichick lacks the defensive talent this year to operate his system to a tee. Bet they could use a player like, say, Jamie Collins.

Play of the Week

Carson Wentz, will you join my crew at an escape room?


Locker Room Celebration of the Week

Speaking of the Patriots, they are in the cellar looking up at the first-place Bills who convincingly beat the New York Jets 21-12. New head coach Sean McDermott’s speech was on the longer side but nicely covered all the basics and then some – stay out of off field trouble, be respectful in the media. My favorite line: Stay humble (pssst…they beat the Jets.)

The worst NFL sponsor ever

A terrible development in my life. My otherwise precious children have been treated to enough NFL marketing that they now sing the Arby’s jingle o repeat, especially on long car rides. Arby’s, we’ve got the meats. Arby’s, we’ve got the meats. Arby’s, we’ve got the meats. For this vegetarian, it’s the equivalent of the loudest, most rickety dentist drill. Make it stop!

Other quick musings:

– DeShone Kizer really impressed (still raw poise, but great poise, instincts). Love that the Browns came within 3 of topping the mighty Steelers.

– Rising Star to Watch: Tarik Cohen. Bears RB who had 113 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. Love that the 5’6” shifty rookie also has boatload of power.

– How awesome is this rookie running back class? (Dalvin Cook still to come.)

– When broadcasters  talk about the accusations against Ezekiel Elliott, they really need to talk about it.

– Everything in Santa Clara has been koombaya. Unfortunately the reality of real game had to eventually appear.

– I’m really excited to see Jay Cutler play next week.

– Derek Carr is on  major upward trajectory. Not to take anything away from his ability but having Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree is quite a luxury

– Early injury outbreaks are just one reason I’m starting to strongly prefer DFS over season-long fantasy.

– Kirk Cousins and Terrelle Pryor need to spend more time together.

– Enjoyed Sam Ponder in her Countdown debut. Thought she was relaxed and fun. Not a fan of the show setting up Rex Ryan to be the shocking comments guy when he’s most likely biding his time before a return to coaching.