LA Wildcats Drop Season Opener, Staff And Roster Changes Follow
XFL. For two decades this has been a word that has been synonymous with failure. The original XFL folded after only one season back in 2001.
Now let’s be clear. This new upstart league, with the same three letters, and the same man with the financing and ownership label (Vince McMahon), is not supposed to be a 2.0 version. The goal is not to build on the original version and fix the failed components. The XFL 2020 is a brand new league built on one fundamental truth: For The Love Of Football.
This is a league that is not boasting ties to the WWE or the mantra that they can take down the juggernaut that is the NFL. When I spoke with Commissioner Oliver Luck he made it very clear, and I’m paraphrasing:
The NFL is a fantastic league. I love the NFL, I have worked for the NFL, and I have many friends that work for the NFL. We have zero intentions of taking the NFL head-on. We are creating a league that gives fans more football and puts the fans at the forefront of everything.
In my humble opinion, opening weekend of the XFL was a huge success. Attendance for a start-up league was great, the atmosphere was fun, the product on the field was very good, and the rule changes were innovative and overall did not cheapen or worsen the integrity of the game. If you do not know what the rule changes are yet, you can read more about the rule changes here.
The XFL, before kickoff, has already surpassed ticket sales revenue for the entire season of the AAF.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 8, 2020
XFL TV ratings for the opener: 3x higher than any MLS game, ever.
Not sure what that information even means, just putting out there so we can chew on it.
— Pablo Maurer (@MLSist) February 10, 2020
Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Wildcats, while playing an exciting first half, fell flat and fell to the Houston Roughnecks in their season opener.
A Disappointing Loss
The Wildcats came out of the gate with the deflating news that their starting quarterback, Josh Johnson, would be a no-go as he continues to battle a thigh injury (status still doubtful for Week Two), and yet Charles Kanoff and company were able to put together an exciting first half. They went into the locker room only down one, 18-17.
Unfortunately, the optimism pretty much ended there. As cliche as it is, it was a tale of two halves. The Wildcats were unable to score another point and the defense ran out of gas. When the clock hit triple zeros, the final score read 37-17.
Head Coach Winston Moss voiced his frustration in his press conference after the game.
Overall, Charles Kanoff played pretty well, all things considered. He was traded to the Wildcats just a few weeks prior to the game and was brought in to battle Jalan McClendon for a back-up role. Then he was thrust into a starting situation, in a start-up league, in the inaugural game for a team. He finished the game 21/40 for 200 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. During the first half he looked comfortable and in command. During the second, not so much.
The biggest bright spot has to be the dominance of wide receiver Nelson Spruce. He became the leagues first 100-yard receiver after his 11 catch 103 yard performance. I have been pounding the table for Spruce on my podcast, and it was great to see him so dominant early on. Expect big things from the talented receiver all season long.
Staff And Roster Changes
While the loss was bad, the bigger surprise was what haapened after. LAFB Network learned on Monday that the team not only released defensive captain Anthony Johnson, but they also moved on from Defensive Coordinator Pepper Johnson.
At this point, we have to assume both transactions had to do with one another, but cannot confirm at this time.
While shocking to move on from a coordinator after just one game, it is even more surprising to release the face of the defense, a captain, without even fielding any trade offers. A defender of Johnson’s caliber could have certainly sparked interest on the trade market.
To me, after hearing Coach Moss’s comments after the game (see above) it was definitely a surprise to see his DC relieved of his duties and not Special Teams coordinator Martin Bayless. He mentions multiple times that his defense battled but his special teams unit needs “a lot of work.” Being a defensive mind himself, one would think that it came down to defensive ideologies.
One thing is for sure. This is Winston Moss’s team.
Los Angeles and the LA Wildcats orginazation will hope for a much better result this Sunday when they welcome the Dallas Renegades to town for their home opener.