Pepper Johnson, a former All-Pro NFL linebacker and longtime Patriots assistant coach, became the XFL's first coaching casualty on Monday, a day after the new league concluded its inaugural weekend.
Johnson, who had served as the Los Angeles Wildcats' defensive coordinator, was fired two days after the team's opening game, a 37-17 loss to the Houston Roughnecks.
"We recognize that there are issues we need to address for the 2020 season," Wildcats head coach/general manager Winston Moss said of the team's decision to part with Johnson, who won two Super Bowls with the Giants as a player before winning three more rings on New England's coaching staff from 2000-13. "While these decisions are difficult, we have given this significant thought. We are here to put the best possible product on the field for our fans. We thank Pepper for his contributions to the Wildcats and we are looking forward to our home opener this weekend."
Johnson wasn't the only significant move that happened within the Wildcats' organization on Monday. Earlier in the day, XFL reporter Alex Alarcon reported that the team had cut defensive captain Anthony Johnson, who played for five teams during his five NFL seasons from 2014-18.
Alarcon has also reported that Otis Smith, a former NFL defensive back who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2001, is a possible candidate to replace Johnson. Smith, who enjoyed coaching stops with the Eagles and Chiefs after retiring from the NFL in 2003, is currently the Wildcats' defensive backs coach.
While the Wildcats didn't have the best of weekends, this past weekend was an overall success for the XFL, which posted encouraging ratings during its opening weekend. The eight-team league will have before having a two-week postseason that will commence with its inaugural championship game between the East and West champions on Sunday, April 26.