Craig Carton
Westchester County Journal News

This has been inevitable since Craig Carton began pulling double-duty. But is it horrible timing for WFAN.

Carton’s future at the station is in question, according to The Post. FOX is pushing to turn his FS1 morning show into his full-time — and only — gig. And, to steal from noted Carton nemesis Mike Francesa, they are bringing more than a peashooter as they try to sway Carton to exit his dominant afternoon drive partnership with Evan Roberts.

FOX is reportedly dangling a multi-million deal in front of Carton. And Audacy, WFAN’s parent station, is in dire financial straits. So bad that most reporting makes it sound like there is a non-zero chance the transmitters could get repossessed one day during the midday show. And really, that could be the deciding factor here.

Carton is extremely talented. And “The Carton Show” is beginning to experience modest success. But he will never be as relevant hosting an early-morning cable sports debating show than he is as one of the faces of New York’s beloved sports talk station. That is just a fact. But the almighty buck is the great equalizer. We know FOX has it. And we strongly suspect WFAN does not.

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That all said, let us assume Carton is a goner and play the game: What does WFAN do? Who could it target to replace Carton, mesh with Roberts and — most importantly — maintain the station’s colossal lead over ESPN Radio New York’s Michael Kay?

Our view: It will need to be an internal option. Partly because of money, partly because the replacement must mesh with Roberts, partly because there is no home run free agent out there. Francesa and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo are not walking through that door. Adam Schein just re-upped at Sirius XM. And The Ringer’s John Jastremski figures to stay put unless he is getting a solo show.

Overnight host Sal Licata is the obvious pick once the field is pared down to those already in the building. Yes, he and Roberts would do a very sports-heavy program. And that is not necessarily what WFAN is going for these days. But that duo is likely good enough to stay ahead of Kay, although it may get close.

If not Licata? Convincing Joe Benigno to return for a short caretaker run might be the next-best thing. It would be a colossal ask for the semi-retired WFAN legend. But he and Roberts are a proven team. And if the Aaron Rodgers-led Jets come to fruition, Benigno is a good guy to have around yakking about the biggest story in town with passion. Yes, Benigno and Roberts lost to Kay in the ratings during their brief afternoon drive run. But that was during the pandemic. They deserve a little slack.

If Carton leaves, the pressure will be on WFAN and programming executive Spike Eskin. Say what you want about Kay, but WFAN does not have a single win over him in the last five years without Carton or Francesa in the power chair. They cannot just roll the balls out and expect to win. If they have to replace Carton, they had better get it right.

James Kratch can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.