LeSean McCoy is emerging as an early possible contender to succeed Shannon Sharpe as Skip Bayless’ debate partner on “Undisputed.”
The former NFL star turned co-host of FS1’s “SPEAK” is expected to have an extended audition with the irascible Bayless once Sharpe takes his contractual buyout from Fox Sports, two sources with knowledge of the situation told Front Office Sports.
The ex-NFL running back nicknamed “Shady” is still relatively green TV-wise. The six-time Pro Bowler only joined FS1 in September 2022 after a 12-year NFL career with four teams. But McCoy knows how to get into the end zone.
During the last two years of his pro football career, McCoy earned Super Bowl rings with Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs and Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
McCoy’s “Speak” co-hosts Emmanuel Acho and Joy Taylor are also candidates to succeed Sharpe after his six-plus years run with Bayless on the morning embrace debate show. Ditto for Nick Wright, the opinionated and talented co-host of “First Things First.”
Outside of FS1, the sports cable network could make a run at ESPN’s Max Kellerman, Keyshawn Johnson, and the NFL Network/ESPN’s Michael Irvin.
Nicknamed “The Playmaker,” Irvin has been chafing at his suspension from NFL Network and ESPN after a controversial conversation with a female hotel employee at the Super Bowl in Phoenix.
The problem for McCoy – and anybody else seeking to succeed Sharpe – boils down to ego and status.
Virtually nobody wants to work with Bayless. And in his heart of hearts, Bayless probably doesn’t want to work with anybody outside of his “brother from another mother,” Stephen A. Smith at ESPN.
Bayless is making roughly twice what Sharpe is earning at FS1, said sources. The enfant terrible of sports debate is making roughly $8 million annually to Sharpe’s $4 million.
Possible contenders should know they must check their ego before Bayless, the Godfather of sports TV debate.
The 71-year-old Bayless will also have “final say” on Sharpe’s replacement, said sources.
Bayless is not likely to sign off on any on-air talent who “challenges” him, said sources. Much less one who out-debates him during an extended tryouts, said sources.
Then there’s the diversity and equity issue. It would be difficult for Fox to hire another white male to debate Bayless. With its “barbershop”-style format, “Undisputed” is popular in the Black community.
The new hire will likely be a person of color, a woman, or both. Especially if they are famous former NFL and NBA/WNBA athletes: the two sports that “Undisputed” likes to debate the most.
Sharpe is expected to leave FS1 after the NBA Finals. He posted a nebulous message Saturday night about the behind-the-scenes drama.
“Stay tuned for the seeds I’m planting,” the three-time Super Bowl winner tweeted.
Messages left with a Fox Sports spokesperson were not immediately returned.