Mike Francesa, right, and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo were a...

Mike Francesa, right, and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo were a tad upstaged by Tom Brady on “First Take” on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. Credit: ESPN Images/Jessie Alcheh

“When you’re talking about the greatest, who better to talk to than two of the greatest ever?” Stephen A. Smith said on Wednesday morning.

Smith meant Tom Brady in the first case and Mike Francesa and Chris Russo in the second, as he welcomed the former WFAN hosts to his ESPN show, “First Take.”

As it turned out, though, the fact Brady’s re-retirement announcement came shortly before the show began complicated the much-hyped mini-reunion.

“I wish Brady would have picked another day,” Francesa said as the show began, sensing correctly that the program would have no choice but to dwell on that topic.

Francesa and Russo are fully capable of discussing Brady’s career, of course, but fans looking for sparks or conversational quirks got fewer of them than usual.

Toward the end, Francesa said, “It’s been a very quiet show,” in contrast to some of the viral videos Smith and Russo have produced in the past year.

Russo has been a regular Wednesday guest, and Smith — an avid fan of the old “Mike and the Mad Dog” show on WFAN — invited Francesa to join them this week.

“You’re in the company of royalty, Molly [Qerim],” Adam Schefter, a Bellmore-Kennedy High alumnus, said after he gave a report on Brady.

“You’re with Hall of Famers to talk about a Hall of Fame quarterback.”

Said Francesa: “This is too much sweetness for me.”

Russo added, “I said the same thing. [They’re] kissing our rear ends.”

Smith found himself agreeing with Francesa and mostly with Russo during a series of discussions that centered on Brady but at times veered off course.

That course inevitably led to the 20th century, and references to the likes of Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Jack Nicklaus, Bill Russell and Otto Graham.

Otto Graham! Yes, Russo went there. “Stop it!” Smith said.

The parade of long-ago names continued as Francesa referenced the changing of the guard Brady’s departure represents.

“This wheel just keeps on turning,” he said. “They replaced [Walter] Cronkite. They replaced Johnny Carson. They replaced Michael Jordan.

“They replace everybody. The world just keeps going on.”

They have replaced Francesa and Russo at WFAN, but Russo still has three jobs — with SiriusXM, MLB Network and ESPN — and Francesa has a regular podcast.

Both seem happy with their lives and careers at ages 68 and 63, respectively. But they do still enjoy occasional reunions, and their fans anticipate them.

Those fans include Smith, 55, one of ESPN’s biggest and highest paid stars but at heart a guy from Queens who has been listening to them since young adulthood. (Francesa and Russo partnered on WFAN from 1989-2008.)

Smith called it an honor to have them on for all two hours of the show.

Qerim, 38, Smith’s studio host, did her best to steer the conversation back to Brady in particular and the current millennium in general when necessary.

Francesa and Russo discussed Wilt Chamberlain’s up-and-down performance in the 1970 NBA Finals and later the competitive streak of Bob Gibson.

At that point Qerim noted Serena Williams as a competitor worthy of mention, too. “Can we get a reference that I’m aware of?” she said.

In the last segment, “First Take” squeezed in some non-Brady-related “Mike and the Mad Dog” nostalgia with a clip of them arguing about the bathroom access at old Yankee Stadium. Russo was fine with it; Francesa argued for a new stadium.

Francesa said on Wednesday, “Losing the stadium has killed the Yankees. The new stadium has never replaced the old one. I totally, totally admit ‘Dog’ won that argument."

Qerim, who grew up in Connecticut listening to WFAN, closed with, “This is such an honor, seriously. You guys are icons. This is really special.”

Then ESPN went to its next Brady update.

More sports media

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME