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How WFAN will go about replacing Mike Francesa

Mike Francesa greets longtime partner Chris Russo as

Mike Francesa greets longtime partner Chris Russo as fans gathered at Irving Plaza to show their appreciation for the longtime WFAN host at the third annual FrancesaCon in Manhattan on March 12, 2016. Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

The clock is ticking on WFAN to find a new afternoon show, with Mike Francesa leaving in 11 months. But there is no announcement on the horizon, and there might not be one until the station test drives possibilities during Francesa’s summer vacation.

“It would be nice to have a good handle on it by the end of the summer,” Mark Chernoff, the station’s vice president of programming, said on Tuesday. “I am sure it will be: Stay tuned, because there should be some interesting stuff on the radio to see what might work.”

That was the approach Chernoff took with the morning show in the summer of 2007, eventually replacing Don Imus with Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton. But that opening came abruptly after Imus was fired; this one has plenty of lead time.

“I think the way I’d describe it is it’s not so much that there’s a replacement for Mike, because I don’t think you can replace Mike,” Chernoff said. “He’s an icon. He does what he does; no one else does it the same way. It’s like when Imus left it wasn’t a matter of replacing him. It was a matter of finding something that we think would work.”

Chernoff dismissed the idea of moving Esiason and Carton, saying, “I have a very successful morning show and a very successful afternoon show. We’d like to create another successful afternoon show, but we already have a successful morning show. It’s not an issue.”

The simplest option would be moving the midday team of Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno to a projected new 2 to 6:30 p.m. shift. While Francesa said he does not expect to have a say in the decision, nor does he want one, he endorsed Roberts and Benigno.

“It’s my understanding that Joe and Evan want the show,” he said on Tuesday, “so why wouldn’t I root for them to get it?”

One intriguing potential candidate is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has served as a fill-in morning host and whose term expires at the end of this year. He appeared on Francesa’s show last week and did not deny potential interest.

Christie, even more so than Francesa, is a polarizing figure.

“That could play to his advantage or his disadvantage based on how he parlays it,” Francesa said. “The thing he’s got going is he’s got a brand, and that’s the hardest thing to do. You have to have people recognize you and care about you, and he’s already got that.”

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