It’s a big sports week in Texas. The 11th-ranked Longhorns face No.3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night. The Houston Texans will begin a new era with rookie coach DeMeco Ryans and rookie quarterback CJ Stroud at the Baltimore Ravens. The Dallas Cowboys play their season-opener on Sunday Night Football at the New York Giants, and the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers are in a three-way battle with the Seattle Mariners for the American League West.
We thought it would be a good time to catch up with Texas Monthly’s Richard Justice. Justice is a longtime sports journalist who has worked at MLB.com, the Houston Chronicle, the Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, and the Baltimore Sun. He’s best known for his television appearances on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption and MLB Network.
Awful Announcing recently spoke with Justice about several topics.
Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Awful Announcing: What are your initial thoughts on Texas vs. Alabama?
Richard Justice: “On the field, (the Longhorns) have been about as irrelevant nationally as you can be. Under Steve Sarkisian, they’ve had great recruiting classes. They have three quarterbacks who can compete. Against Rice, they won (37-10), but at times their offensive line had trouble with Rice. That shouldn’t be the case. Sarkisian said after the game, ‘I didn’t like our physicality.’ Guess what’s going to happen against Alabama? This will give them a chance to make a statement about the program. The national consensus is that Alabama is not the Alabama of years past. And as we’ve seen last week with what happened to LSU, Clemson, and TCU, who knows anymore?”
Texas HC Steve Sarkisian spoke about making sure his team doesn't get too caught up in the magnitude of Saturday's game at Alabama.— Jeff Barker (@JeffBarker_) September 4, 2023
"The moment you start focusing on what the outcome could be, what the result could be, the game hits you in the mouth and you lose." #HookEm pic.twitter.com/be520tUpx1
When are we going to see the debut of Arch Manning?
“Well, the job is Quinn Ewers’ right now. One of the many sins that Steve Sarkisian committed last year was that they have another 5-star quarterback in Maalik Murphy from California. (Murphy) was the guy who played last week when Ewers was out of the game against Rice. They have three guys. Practice isn’t open, so we have to take their word that Arch Manning is as good as advertised. In a perfect world, he wouldn’t see the field much, if at all, this year. But it’s Year 3 for Sarkisian at a school that doesn’t have a lot of patience.”
Texas has a ton of money. It’s moving into the Southeastern Conference in 2024. Shouldn’t the Longhorns be better at football?
“They have more money, more resources. The facilities are unbelievable. To me, if you hire the right coach, you will win. They’ve had three different head coaches since the end of Mack Brown’s tenure (in 2013). You hear things that there’s a cultural problem at Texas. That players are not held accountable. It’s a great place to live. The Athletic wrote a story about the recruitment of Arch Manning. It was almost obscene the amount of money spent on food, 5-star hotels, and all of that. Does that create the right atmosphere for winning? So far, it hasn’t.”
How are Texans fans feeling about DeMeco Ryans and CJ Stroud?
“Here’s what happened in the off-season. Fans of the Texans were beyond disgusted with the ownership and the coaches. Apathy had run amok. When DeMeco Ryans was hired—he’s not J.J. Watt in terms of popularity—but he was as respected in the locker room and in the stands as any player they have ever had. And given what he had done in San Francisco, there was an elation that I hadn’t seen in a long, long time. People were really excited for a DeMeco Ryans-Bryce Young marriage. They’re going to see if CJ Stroud can also get them excited. What are they looking for? Progress. Don’t beat yourself. At least be competent. They’re probably not going to win many games.”
What do you think the Astros’ and Rangers’ chances in the AL West race?
“The Rangers have really been in a freefall. They looked unstoppable up until about a month ago. With the Astros, the front office that had prided itself in maybe not being Tampa Bay smart but being really smart had a bad offseason. Six straight trips to the American League Championship Series—four World Series in six years—that streak appears to be in jeopardy.”
Are you still doing appearances on PTI?
“I haven’t done PTI in over a year, but I’m on Tony Kornheiser’s podcast maybe twice a month. We remain very close. The show has gotten so big. At the beginning, one year, they told me I was their most frequent guest. I would have famous players come up to me like Joey Votto and say ‘Can you get me on that show?’ ‘Sorry buddy, you’re not big enough.’ The show has become so popular that they can get any guest they want.
“When I was at the Washington Post (working alongside Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon), people would ask, ‘What are they really like?’ That is what they are really like. They did that one-off dialogue in the offices of the Washington Post in the 14 years I was there. It was exactly like that. Now, they just happen to be getting a little bit more money for it.”
Speaking of TV, could Dak Prescott be the next Cowboys QB in the broadcast booth?
“[Laughs]. He’s really good. The thing about Dak is that there’s a likability factor around him. Part of being a quarterback is you’ve got to be good. He’s been pretty good. But you have to make people believe in you. People do. The one thing I’ve noticed about Micah Parsons, Ezekiel Elliott when he was there, and Dak, is that they got lucky with guys who carry themselves in a way that represent the franchise the right way and bring a swagger that forces everyone else to care a little more too. No question (he could have a TV career). Those guys (Prescott, Parsons, and Elliott) have that ‘it’ factor. You will watch what they say. They are not Charles Barkley. But they have the potential to be pretty darn good.”