ESPN reportedly plans to move Max Kellerman, the show’s co-host since 2016, off of First Take in the near future and replace him with a rotating guest of panelists. An early contender for a panelist spot has emerged in Irvin, the Dallas Cowboys legend who, like Smith, has a passion for being loud and proud.
ESPN reportedly wants to pair Michael Irvin and Stephen A. Smith together on ‘First Take’
The viewers at home and those who scroll through Twitter have subjected themselves to years of Smith and Kellerman polluting the airwaves with nonsense on First Take.
If ESPN takes Kellerman off the show and moves him to other projects, the network reportedly won’t employ a full-time replacement the way they did when he replaced Skip Bayless in 2016. Outkick’s Bobby Burack reported that Irvin, a longtime NFL Network contributor, is an early front-runner to be among the panelists who will debate with Smith, likely about LeBron James and Michael Jordan while spending three to five minutes discussing legitimate news.
It is not yet known if Irvin would need to leave the NFL Network and sign a contract with ESPN. The three-time Super Bowl champion has appeared on First Take as a guest numerous times in recent years without any logistical issues.
As of publication, ESPN had not publicly commented on Kellerman’s possible departure or if Irvin would step into the mix as a replacement.
Irvin and Smith have shown impressive chemistry in the past
At times, one of the knocks against First Take has been a perceived lack of chemistry between Kellerman and Smith. Part of that may be because of how well Smith and Bayless, now at Fox Sports, meshed in their various years together.
Conversely, part of the issue may simply be how often Smith yells over everyone else during a segment.
Whatever the case, ESPN certainly hopes to keep First Take loud. Anyone who has been on TV or radio knows that speaking softly isn’t going to work. But there’s a clear difference between speaking at what is considered acceptable levels and speeds and how excited Irvin can get with a microphone attached.
That bodes well for ESPN, at least. The two have a pre-existing friendship and clear chemistry, which helped create some viral moments on First Take. This is not an example of taking someone at the network who is more of a traditional journalist, someone like Mina Kimes or Jeff Passan, and trying to turn them into a talking head on a show built around debate and creating headlines instead of discussing what’s actually going on in the world.
ESPN needs to let Irvin explode and be himself on the air
At this stage in the game, you either love First Take for what it is — mindless debate or background noise — or you consider it an embarrassment to a network that once served as a reputable outlet for news and storytelling.
For those who fall into the former category, Irvin is exactly what the show needed. Kellerman could get loud and passionate, but his demeanor and opinions in those times often felt inauthentic. Smith operates like a used car salesman who may actually believe the ridiculous beliefs he shares each morning.
If Irvin shares an outrageous opinion like Kellerman’s infamous “I want Iguodala” proclamation, it has a far better chance of sounding sincere. The Pro Football Hall of Famer has the intelligence and broadcasting acumen to either sell a shocking take or make an excellent point on the air.
Anyone skeptical of Irvin should watch his famous “recipes” rant from 2011 when the Dallas Cowboys icon lost his composure during an on-air segment about the Indianapolis Colts’ failure to develop a young quarterback behind Peyton Manning. In the process of raising his voice and likening it to young women not learning how to cook, Irvin articulately compared it to how the Colts set themselves up for failure.
The “recipes” rant may have been a one-time thing, and no one is asking Irvin to try replicating it a decade later. With that said, ESPN needs to let the legendary receiver be himself instead of simply making him the anti-Kellerman.