Washington Commanders tight ends coach Pete Hoener has announced his retirement, capping off an extensive career that spanned more than four decades.
Hoener, who first coached in the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985, established a reputation for leading his players to exceptional seasons. His time in the league included stints with the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers.
For the last 11 years, Hoener has worked with Ron Rivera with the Panthers and Commanders. He used an "old-school" style when it came to developing his players, and it was always appreciated by his fellow coaches and the players themselves.
"He may push people a little harder who need pushing," said tight end Logan Thomas. "He might yell at some people a little bit more. He might just talk … He understands his players and how to get through to his players."
Thomas is one of the most recent examples of how Hoener has turned potential into results on the field. He vouched for Thomas during the 2020 offseason, when he was primarily a backup player after switching positions from quarterback. Once Washington signed him, Hoener helped Thomas put up career highs in targets (110), receptions (72), yards (670) and touchdowns (6).
Those numbers earned Thomas a contract extension a year later.
"He's got a wealth of knowledge," Rivera said of Hoener. "If you look at his track record with the guys he's coached, the All-Pros he's had and it doesn't surprise me what he has done with Logan."
But there have been several other tight ends who took strides in their development because of Hoener's tutelage. Greg Olsen, who joined the Panthers in 2012 via trade, became one of the top tight ends in the league during his nine-year stint with the team.
Olsen obtained the top five single-season receptions totals and the top four single-season receiving yards totals by a tight end in Panthers franchise history. His 10 100-yard receiving games are also the most by a tight end in Carolina history. And in 2016, Olsen became the first tight end in NFL history to have three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons after recording 1,073 yards on a team-high 80 catches.
"He's been unbelievable for my development," Olsen said in 2019. "He believed in me, gave me a chance. I was kind of on the fence about whether I was gonna be that next breakout guy or if I was gonna be another first-round 'bust,' so to speak. Obviously, my career took off to another level since I've gotten here, and Pete was a big part of that."
Prior to joining the Panthers, Hoener coached tight end Vernon Davis with the 49ers. In 2010, Davis tallied 56 receptions, 914 receiving yards and seven touchdowns to become the first tight end in franchise history to lead the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in consecutive seasons. The previous year, Davis compiled 78 receptions for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns, an effort that resulted in being selected a Pro Bowl starter.
Davis' 13 touchdowns tied the NFL single-season record at the time for the most touchdowns by a tight end and equaled the most touchdown catches in the NFL, making him the first tight end in the Super Bowl era to lead or tie for the league lead in receiving touchdowns.
"He is probably the best coach I've ever had," Davis told 49ers.com in 2009. "He knows anything you could want to know as a tight end."
Hoener joined the 49ers from the Chicago Bears, where he oversaw the offensive line in 2004. Under Hoener's guidance, center Olin Kreutz earned Pro Bowl honors. Prior to the Bears, Hoener spent three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, serving as the offensive line coach in 2003 and tight ends coach from 2001-02. It marked his second stint with the Cardinals after entering the NFL coaching ranks as the team's tight ends coach from 1985-86 when the franchise was in St. Louis.
While with the Cardinals, Hoener worked with tight end Freddie Jones, who finished first on the team with 44 catches for 358 yards in 2002. Jones became the first tight end to lead the team in receiving since Jackie Smith in 1973, and his 44 receptions were the most by a Cardinals tight end since 1968.
Hoener's career also includes several stops at the collegiate level, including Illinois State (1977), Indiana State (1978-84), Illinois (1987-88), Purdue (1989-91), Texas Christian (1992-97) and Iowa State (1998-99). He coached the offensive line for each program, but he was also the offensive coordinator for Indiana State, Texas Christian and Iowa State.
Hoener has worked with scores of players during his time as a coach, helping many of them take their skillsets to another level. That's not what Hoener cherishes the most, though; rather, it's the bonds he's built with them.
"Those relationships are everything," Hoener told 49ers.com in 2009. "My favorite memories are just seeing some of the players I have been around grow and have families and go into different jobs, even if it wasn't necessarily in football."