Welcome to the Wednesday War Room, where your favorite Yahoo Sports NFL writers weigh in on the most serious and critical NFL topics of the day. Read on for how you can join in. Today, we’re talking almost-famous NFL players and Romo’s return (?). Onward!
Question 1: No football players ranked atop ESPN’s Top 100 most famous athletes list. Putting aside the usual suspects (Brady, Cam, Gronk, etc.), which NFL player deserves the white-hot spotlight of fame?
For all the angst over quarterbacking in the NFL, there is a good group of young quarterbacks who will do just fine leading the league into the post-Brady/post-Manning era (and there are a few more coming in a strong 2018 draft class). But of them all, I think Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders will emerge as the biggest superstar. The Raiders are a marquee franchise and Carr is leading them back to relevance. They’re going to get a lot of attention with the move to Las Vegas, and Carr is the perfect player to lead the way. Because he grew up being groomed by his brother and former No. 1 overall pick David to be an NFL quarterback, he carries himself like you’d expect from a star quarterback. It won’t be long before he’s a household name.
Seems like that Colin Kaepernick fella deserves a little more press than he’s been getting, don’t you think? All kidding aside, I’m still waiting for the first offensive linemen to break through and become a multimedia personality. If JJ Watt can do it on the other side of the line, why can’t one of football’s under appreciated warriors? I even have a good candidate: Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns. He hasn’t missed a Pro Bowl since entering the league and he currently runs one of the most entertaining NFL player Twitter accounts. He definitely has enough cred to step out of the traditional “linemen should be seen and not heard” mold. Playing for the Browns doesn’t help things, but Thomas deserves more off-field attention than he usually gets.
The NFL does all it can to ensure that the teams and The Shield take precedence over any one player—seriously, even Peyton freaking Manning is quickly vanishing from public view, and he’s been gone barely a year. Celebrity in the NFL is a tricky thing because of the short shelf life of even the best players, so you can’t really blame Antonio Brown for twerking or Odell Beckham Jr. for trying to impregnate a kicking net. Gotta do what you can to cut through the noise, man. Anyway, two guys I think are ripe for big-time exposure are the Panthers’ Greg Olsen and the Rams’ Todd Gurley. They’re both in that sweet spot where talent and personality intersect but criminal charges don’t overlap. Olsen is like Gronk with the Axe Body Spray and Lime-A-Ritas excised from his genetic code, and Gurley has the potential to be a game-changer (maybe the only game-changer) in a town that thrives on celebrity.
The world needs to get to know J.J. Watt, and we in the media just need to do a better job of telling his sto–oh, and here I thought I could make it through without cracking up. Sorry, just let me regain myself a bit here. No, but seriously, it’s an interesting question, and one that I didn’t have an immediate answer to. We know Russell Wilson, to the point where he’s almost passé, right? Aaron Rodgers, even Odell Beckham. There’s a clearly defined caste here, and it hasn’t had a ton of new members lately. As a result, we’re kind of over all the household names a bit, fairly or not.
I would nominate Marcus Mariota. He’s quiet and plays in Nashville. Those are two strikes against him. But he’s a role model, a fantastic young player and might be the quarterback for a very competitive team this year. I suspect the Titans are not *quite* as good as everyone thinks they are. But it might be a fun season upcoming for them, feeding off the energy and the momentum built up during a dream hockey season there.
Question 2: Will Tony Romo ever take another snap in the NFL?
Or better yet, WILL HE FUMBLE IT?! OK, I confess, I think he’s only half into this announcing thing. I don’t think he’s moved on completely. I always felt he was ambivalent about deciding to retire, allowing himself to be talked into what he should do. But will he get the itch to play again? It wouldn’t shock me. I have no idea where he’d go and if the Texans were still a realistic option or not. But I’d be fascinated by the whole thing. I never understood people shaming athletes for their Hokey Pokey dance with retirement. It’s the toughest decision an athlete can make, and I don’t doubt Romo’s struggle with it.
I don’t think he will. Once Jimmy Johnson got a taste of the sweet broadcasting life, he never ever went back to the grind of the NFL. Romo will be the same way. As a young father with a growing family, Romo will be able to spend more time with his children while also taking himself out of harm’s way. Why put yourself at the risk of more concussions when you’ve already secured such a lucrative post-playing career?
Tony Romo will become to unstable starting quarterbacks what Los Angeles was to unenthusiastic fanbases: a boogeyman used as a veiled threat. “Pick up your play, fella, or we’ll bring Romo in here.” Every town whose quarterback starts to struggle will begin clamoring for Romo, and some owner is going to put together one hell of an attractive package for him to suit up. (He’s three years younger than Brady, remember.) But what would be the allure of getting the hell beat out of him by guys two decades younger? I say we’re a lot more likely to see Brady take a run at the PGA Tour than at the Eagles’ D-line.
I don’t really understand the fantasies that surround former players returning to the field. Romo knew exactly what his options were when he retired. If he wanted to be the Houston Texans’ quarterback, that’s the job he’d have right now. He chose CBS, and landed in one of the 10 or so best jobs in sports broadcasting. What has changed since he made that decision? Romo has a great job that doesn’t require him dodging rushing linebackers. He’s not playing again.
Previous War Rooms:
• Was the Bears’ Trubisky debacle the worst draft flub ever?
• Five ways to make the NFL on TV a better broadcast
• Which out-of-work quarterback would you pick to run a new team?
• What’s the greatest NFL touchdown celebration of all time?
There you have it. Weigh in with your own thoughts below. Got ideas for future questions? Email us and you might just find your name in lights.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.