Former Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez spent 17 seasons in the NFL. But the soon-to-be Hall of Famer is leaving his role as a studio analyst on The NFL Today at CBS after just three seasons.
“I have had an incredible and rewarding three years at CBS and wish it could be more, but traveling to New York each week during the season is not what is best for my family at this time,” Gonzalez said in a statement. Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch was first to report the news.
Gonzalez, who lives in Los Angeles, hopes to remain in broadcasting. He was hired back in February 2014 along with former linebacker Bart Scott as part of a shake-up at CBS that also saw the exit of Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe.
CBS isn’t the only network that is messing with the lineup on its Sunday NFL pre-game show. Over at ESPN, Sam Ponder is replacing Chris Berman as the host of Sunday NFL Countdown, where she'll be joined by former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan.
As far as a replacement goes, CBS hasn’t made any announcements, though one name that seems to be getting a fair amount of attention is former Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask, who was a regular on That Other Pregame Show, which aired on Sundays on the CBS Sports Network.
Another name that’s being floated around is Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who has quickly become the more coveted free agent in broadcasting, though it’s unlikely he would take a studio job if he decided to retire from the NFL.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that CBS is actually trying to entice the 36-year-old quarterback to its booth with a big-time job opportunity — replacing former Giants quarterback Phil Simms as its top anchor for the network’s NFL game coverage.
CBS has not responded to a request for comment, though a source indicates the network's interest in Romo is real.
Its unclear what would happen to Simms if CBS successfully landed Romo. Would Romo start out in a less visible position and work his way up as Simms’ successor? Would Simms be demoted to a lesser role or leave the network? What role would Simms' long-time partner Jim Nantz play?
One thing is for certain: Simms is a weekly target of critics and is often mocked by fans on social media during games. The @philsimmsquotes Twitter account has amassed nearly 41,000 followers by pointing out his flubs and mistakes in realtime during games.
Someone who has never seen football could do Phil Simms's job better than he can pic.twitter.com/2WT9DCOhKE
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 10, 2016
CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus has long defended Simms, and thinks he remains one of the best on-air talents in broadcasting.
"I think Phil is vastly under-appreciated and part of that is the overreaction to social media," McManus said going into last season. "I would just suggest that if people listen to Jim and Phil with an open mind, I think they would recognize what a good job they are doing.”
One aspect that may complicate any deal is the fact that CBS has the NFL’s lackluster Thursday night package for the first half of the 2017 season. Romo doesn’t have any broadcasting experience, so the idea of throwing an untested rookie into a prominent role twice a week to start seems unlikely.
CBS isn't the only network that's shown interest in acquiring Romo.
According to an ESPN report, FOX would like Romo to replace John Lynch as an on-air NFL analyst. Lynch, a former safety who played in the league for 15 seasons, left the booth last month to become general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.
If Romo were interested in the job, he could be in competition with former Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who reportedly interviewed with FOX last month for the network's open analyst position.
“The NFL TV producers I've spoken with really love Romo's potential,” Deitsch said on Twitter earlier this month, adding they say, “he's smart, open, prepared, [and] helpful in TV production meetings.”
According to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Romo's future might not be resolved until training camp, which starts in the middle of July.