Bob Toledo resigned Oct. 18 as coach at Tulane, which hasn't had a winning season since 2002. Offensive line/co-offensive coordinator Mark Hutson finished a 2-11 season.
Johnson, who was born in New Orleans and is an original member of Payton's staff, was an assistant at the University of Miami when the school won its 2001 national title. Before that, he was at San Diego State for five years, where he helped recruit New Orleans native Marshall Faulk.
Payton was effusive in his praise for Johnson in an interview last week with the newspaper.
"First off, he's an extremely hard worker," Payton told the newspaper last Wednesday. "He's very smart. The question with Curtis is not if he's going to be a head coach, the question is when. He's going to have a lot of opportunities.
"I've said this before, it's a great reflection on the organization and who we're hiring, but he's been a big part of our success offensively and an important part of our staff beginning here in '06. ... I think that opportunity is going to come sooner than later for him."