The dream appears to be just that.
Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo does not have his eyes on ESPN Radio New York’s expected-to-be-vacant afternoon drive slot. The WFAN legend told Newsday he is happy at Sirius XM and speculation he could return to terrestrial radio to replace Michael Kay is “probably not realistic.”
“I’m not going to leave Sirius, let’s put it that way,” Russo told sports media columnist Neil Best. “I love Sirius so much. They’ve been good to me. … I’m going to do that as long as they’ll have me, to make a long story short.”
Kay is expected to leave ESPN later this year after 23 years. His contract is about to expire and he and co-hosts Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg are being demolished in the ratings by WFAN’s Craig Carton and Evan Roberts. The only time anyone pays much attention to the program these days is when Kay is generating controversial, unflattering headlines.
If and when Kay goes — ESPN is reportedly trying to convince him to stay — there is no obvious successor, much less one who gives ESPN a prayer to be competitive with WFAN again. But Russo would do just that. And that is just one of many reasons people began connecting dots.
Russo is enjoying a career renaissance thanks to his weekly ESPN First Take residency — one that has made him more or less a member of the Worldwide Leader family. And while ESPN Radio New York is no longer owned by ESPN, the close relationship remains. And the actual station owner, Good Karma Brands’ Craig Karmazin, is the son of Mel Karmazin — Russo’s old boss at WFAN and Sirius.
It would have made a lot of sense. But Russo just took it off the table. So save Karmazin making a massive and probably unlikely contract offer, it is time to move on.
With Russo off the board, it feels like ESPN is trending toward an internal move. Our vote would go to former WFANer Chris Carlin and former Giants defensive lineman Chris Canty, who currently host ESPN Radio’s national afternoon show. Maybe you pair them with La Greca. But you can’t stick with the current Kay sidekicks and you’re probably not going to be able to pry John Jastremski away from The Ringer, although that would be an inspired move.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.