Scattered Clouds 22° Good Morning
Scattered Clouds 22° Good Morning
SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Mike Francesa’s replacement? Just think outside the box, WFAN

Mike Francesa during a 'Mike and the Mad Dog'

Mike Francesa during a 'Mike and the Mad Dog' SiriusXM Town Hall at SiriusXM Studios on July 6, 2017. Photo Credit: Getty Images for SiriusXM / Cindy Ord

Nearly a month into WFAN’s search for a new afternoon show, the best idea I have heard came on the morning show last Thursday: That Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason work a split shift, doing both programs around a break for lunch.

OK, so maybe it wasn’t a serious, workable solution, but it got to the heart of the challenge facing station boss Mark Chernoff as he looks for a replacement for Mike Francesa in 2018 and beyond, with the goal of a decision by Labor Day.

I do not have an answer for him, but I have a suggestion: Do something different, just as you did a decade ago when you tabbed Carton and Esiason to succeed Don Imus.

That move — for which Chernoff had far less lead time — worked out nicely, with the show cruising at No. 1 in the ratings among men ages 25-54 as it approaches its 10th anniversary.

Carton’s frenetic, pot-stirring shtick is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he undeniably is a radio talent.

More to the point: The show the morning crew has fashioned sounds nothing like the rest of the day on the station.

That fits the traditional view that morning shows have more freedom to do guy talk, pop culture and such. But every slot on the schedule could benefit from shaking things up in an era in which anyone with an Internet connection can share a sports opinion worldwide.

Not that it is easy to pull off. Michael Kay’s ESPN afternoon show has tried, and has made some ratings inroads. But it is a far more complicated programming path than nuts-and-bolts sports debate.

Not that I am advocating an attempt to copy the morning show at WFAN. Just think outside the box, Mr. Chernoff.

Kimberly Jones, a frequent fill-in, has knowledge and personality and is female, which certainly is something different for the FAN.

There was a time Chris Christie seemed like a viable option, because he surely is different and has personality to spare. But the political and personal baggage he would carry into the job simply has become too venomous to overcome.

Sid Rosenberg? Hmm. Dangerous, but always interesting.

Mike Valenti, who worked three shows last week, is a ratings powerhouse in Detroit, is well-regarded at CBS Radio and seems to have a bit of an edge to him, which is a good thing.

But listening to him with Evan Roberts and later Chris Simms mostly sounded like conventional sports talk, a genre that 30 years after WFAN’s debut has grown stale. (Granted, MLB All-Star week is a tough sports radio assignment for anyone.)

Again: I do not have a solution to Chernoff’s equation, and if I did, he would have no reason to listen to me.

He was not on duty in 1989 when WFAN tabbed Francesa and Chris Russo to remake afternoon drive, but he struck gold in 2007 when Imus’ fall required a wakeup call in the morning. So he has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Good luck, sir! Whatever you decide, just make sure you do not bore us with the same old thing.

New York Sports