The NFL Draft is tomorrow with both the Jets and Giants picking in the top 3. The Yankees and Mets have both opened the season very strong overall. Not to mention North Korea, Iran, President Trump meeting with French President Macron, etc…..
Yet somehow, all anybody in New York can talk about right now is the return of Mike Francesa.
If you are unaware of who Francesa is, he ruled the New York sports talk airwaves for 30 years, first as part of a tandem with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, and then by himself in the afternoons.
Francesa agreed to step away over a year ago and went on a prolonged goodbye tour.
Following his retirement, WFAN hired Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray, and Bart Scott to take over.
Quick background: Scott is an ex-NFL player, Gray has done some radio and worked at SI, and Carling is a longtime radio veteran who got his start working underneath Francessa nearly two decades ago.
That show did not work.
Scott was consistently ill-prepared, even when it came to talking football (he seemed to have watched little or none of the top QB prospects in this year’s draft).
Gray was fine and tried hard, but it was clear she is still just learning the local market and felt more like background fodder.
As for Carlin, he is a pro and a hard worker, but he is not a strong enough personality to carry an afternoon drive show in NY.
There are those who say they could have gotten it together if given time, but sometimes, you just know when something is not going to have a future. The listeners knew it and WFAN, despite early denials, clearly knew it, too.
The trio will now be kept o in the 1–3 PM slot, at least for now. My guess is if their ratings continue to be poor — a distinct possibility — they will be quietly removed down the line after the smoke from all of this craziness finally clears with the midday team of Joe Beningo and Evan Roberts being extended from 10AM-3PM.
For his part, Francesa clearly thought he would get offers from elsewhere that never came and his ego could not take not having a platform to use to get his opinions out there. So he decided he wanted to come back.
WFAN could have said no, especially since Francesa is reportedly heavily disliked by others at the station, but they realized they were better off with him, so they made the deal to bring him back.
And that is the cold reality of entertainment driven businesses. Money talks, and Francesa generates a ton of it. So, even if it was going to make things awkward, WFAN had to bring him back.
Francesa may only stay sort term or he may stick around for a few more years. But if WFAN is smart, they will make sure to have a clear succession plan in place this time, so they do not put themselves in this position again.
Taking it a step further, WFAN should already be working on said succession plan, the way NBC did after the Connan O’Brien/Jay Leno fiasco was a failure.
NBC regrouped, began building up Jimmy Fallon to take over down the line, and when he did, he succeeded.
If WFAN wants the next Fallon, that is what they will do. Otherwise, they will wind up with a repeat of the CMB disaster and be right back here again when Francesa finally announces he wants to leave — for real this time — permanently.