Get ready for some potential TV fireworks. ESPN is considering bringing on Michael Irvin to debate Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s “First Take,” sources tell Front Office Sports.
The deal to bring Irvin aboard as a guest commentator is not finalized said sources. It’s expected to be limited to “First Take.” The NFL Network analyst is not expected to appear on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” or other NFL-related programming. ESPN is eying NFL Mondays as a natural staging ground for Irvin vs. Smith on “First Take.”
The two have squared off in the past. Irvin and Smith have engaged in mock-screaming debates about America’s Team on “First Take,” prompting host Molly Qerim Rose to describe Irvin as Smith’s “biggest rival” on TV.
Smith later returned the favor by appearing as Irvin’s first guest on his eponymous podcast, “The Michael Irvin Podcast” or “The MIP.”
Smith has mocked the Dallas Cowboys and the team’s rabid fanbase on ESPN’s weekday “Embrace Debate” show. Irvin, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys. He and Smith have clashed on “First Take” over Smith’s Cowboys criticism.
Irvin, a former ESPN talent, has served as an analyst with NFL Network since 2009. He could be one of a rotating series of guest debaters, including both ESPN and non-ESPN talent, to succeed Max Kellerman in the debate chair opposite Smith. Outkick reported on Aug. 19 that Irvin could be “an out-of-house guest” for the rotation.
Other possible debate opponents for Smith, said sources, include ESPN talents like Marcus Spears, Keyshawn Johnson and Jay Williams.
“It’s going to be Stephen A. vs. the world,” said a source.
ESPN declined to comment on Irvin, but the network did confirm FOS’s previous story that Kellerman is leaving “First Take” after nearly five years for his own TV show and a spot on ESPN Radio’s national morning show with Johnson and Williams.