Brad Penner | USA TODAY Sports

The “Mike and the Mad Dog” reunion on “ESPN First Take” back in February was a dud. And, like many, Christopher Russo places the blame on Tom Brady’s retirement announcement that day.

Doggie said Brady’s breaking decision to hang it up “absolutely” derailed Mike Francesa’s much-anticipated audience with him and Stephen A. Smith.

“That hurt us a lot,” Russo said on Jimmy Traina’s “SI Media” podcast. “I could have argued you’re going to do enough of Brady. We did it a ton on that show. Maybe you do Brady twice for a couple of minutes. Remember that happened at 8 a.m., we (Francesa, Russo, Smith and host Molly Qerim) had already had our meeting about what to do that day.

“Timing was not a ‘Mike and the Mad Dog’ fan by any stretch of the imagination. That hurt the power of that show. No question about it.”

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Our take (as we wrote at the time): Brady’s timing did not help. But the bigger issue was ESPN failing to understand the essence of “Mike and the Mad Dog,” overprogramming and forcing useless segments with scoop merchants Jeff Darlington and Adam Schefter into the show, along with pointless NBA talk.

ESPN ould have gotten all the Brady talk they were looking for solely by allowing Francesa and Russo — two football historians — to be themselves and play off Smith. And it would have been tremendous content. Alas. What’s done is done. Back after this.

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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.