Commanders lose offensive coach to retirement, appoint replacement
By Jerry Trotta
What do you know? The Washington Commanders will play a part in the annual coaching carousel.
At one point, it looked like defensive backs coach Chris Harris would be taking his talents to Indianapolis as the Colts’ new defensive coordinator. Luckily, the Commanders dodged a bullet after Harris lost out to Gus Bradley.
With so many openings to fill around the NFL, it seemed like a matter of time until somebody poached one of Ron Rivera’s assistants.
Amazingly enough, the first confirmed departure from Rivera’s staff comes in the form of a retirement, not a thievery, for lack of a better term.
On Friday, the Commanders announced veteran tight ends coach Pete Hoener has retired from coaching.
Commanders tight ends coach Pete Hoener announced his retirement.
This is a significant loss for the Commanders, as Hoener has long been one of the most respected tight end coaches in the NFL. After all, his NFL coaching career started with the then-St. Louis Cardinals back in 1985. From there, Hoener had stints with the (Arizona) Cardinals, Bears, 49ers and Panthers.
This will be an adjustment period for Rivera, too, as Hoener had worked as his assistant for the last 11 years in Carolina and Washington. During that span, the 70-year-old Hoener has been credited with the developments of Vernon Davis, Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker and most recently, Logan Thomas.
A former quarterback at Virginia Tech, the strides Thomas has made as a tight end are a massive testament to Hoener’s old-school coaching style. He pushed for the team to sign Thomas, then a career backup, and Thomas responded by notching career-highs in targets, catches, receiving yards and touchdowns in 2020.
That offseason, Thomas signed a three-year, $24 million extension.
We get the sense Washington had a feeling Hoener was going to retire, because NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported just minutes after the announcement that the team hired veteran assistant Juan Castillo as his replacement.
For those curious, yes, Castillo has coached with Rivera in the past.
By all accounts, Castillo is a solid hire for the Commanders.
A former linebacker for the San Antonio Gunslingers in the USFL, Castillo has vast experience coaching in the NFL. On top of serving as an offensive line coach for the Bears, Ravens and Bills, Castillo worked with Rivera on the Eagles’ staff for five years from 1999 to 2003.
Castillo is also a former run game coordinator for the Bills and has previously coached tight ends for the Eagles.
We all know how much Rivera likes having familiarity on his staff and his past coaching relationship with Castillo should temper the immediate distress that consumed fans following Hoener’s retirement announcement.
With that said, though, Castillo has big shoes to fill in Landover.