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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Who could replace Mike Francesa and Craig Carton at WFAN? Answers coming soon

WFAN Radio host Mike Francesa at the fourth annual

WFAN Radio host Mike Francesa at the fourth annual "Francesacon" on March 4, 2017. Credit: Corey Sipkin

WFAN remains on the clock, and it is ticking louder and faster by the week, with Craig Carton’s morning spot unfilled and Mike Francesa still set to create an afternoon opening after Dec. 15.

Adding to the urgency: The sales staff must start selling ads for the first quarter of 2018, and it would be helpful to know exactly what it is selling.

Station management would like to settle all of this officially in the next week or so.

The morning show is the less-complicated puzzle, with Boomer Esiason and the rest of the longtime “Boomer and Carton” crew already in place.

Gregg Giannotti, a Bellport High and Hofstra alumnus, is CBS Sports Radio’s morning co-host, appears to be the frontrunner and would be a relatively seamless replacement for Carton, who resigned last month after being arrested on federal charges. (CBS Radio owns WFAN.)

Giannotti spent a week with Esiason in September, and he knows the market and station well.

Assuming Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno remain in midday — likely with an added hour for a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. time slot — the afternoon is a blank slate and an opportunity to go in a creative new direction.

Sid Rosenberg, who would have been an interesting option, as always, appears to be out of the mix because of his contractual situation at WABC.

If WFAN decides to go the ex-jock route for its afternoon crew, the leading candidate appears to be former Jets linebacker Bart Scott, whose colorful personality was on display during fill-in appearances over the summer.

Scott currently is heard on ESPN New York radio. Assuming no long-term contractual hurdles, WFAN seems to be a good fit, as long as Scott takes a crash course in knowing and caring about baseball, a must for any New York host.

Regardless, Scott will not be a solo act.

Kimberly Jones, WFAN’s most consistently appealing fill-in in recent years, is in the mix. She currently works for the NFL Network. Chris Carlin, who has joined Jones as a popular fill-in team over the years, would make sense now, too. He is a host at WFAN’s sister station in Philadelphia.

An unconventional two- or three-person crew would be wise, because inevitably the program that replaces Francesa’s will be closely scrutinized for content and ratings. The more different it is, the better for all concerned.

An added bonus of hiring Scott and/or Jones would be a needed dose of diversity. WFAN has not had a black or female host for one of its three most prominent shows since Suzyn Waldman left middays in 2001.

WFAN has been careful not to show its hand. Perhaps it has a Mickey Callaway-like surprise up its sleeve.

VP of programming Mark Chernoff declined to comment on the process beyond saying, “The search continues and we’ve spoken with many people.”

Chernoff originally set Labor Day as a goal to announce a new afternoon show. He did not achieve that mark, then two days later Carton was gone.

Francesa briefly considered extending his stay to help the station through its crisis but no deal came of that, and the ’FAN was back to facing programming challenges on two fronts.

The good news for WFAN is that this is an opportunity to reshape itself as it starts its fourth decade on the air. The time has come to actually do it.

New York Sports