He attended California Polytechnic State University, where he was a quarterback on the 1960 team that suffered a plane crash in Toledo, Ohio in which 22 people of the 45 people on board were killed, including 16 of Tollner's teammates.
He began his coaching career as the offensive coordinator (and later head coach) at Woodside High School in California in 1963.
He then coached at College of San Mateo from 1968 to 1972. He served as the offensive coordinator for San Diego State under Claude Gilbert from 1973 to 1980. He also served as the quarterbacks coach at Brigham Young (BYU) in 1981
He became offensive coordinator of the USC Trojans football program under head coach John Robinson in 1982, and succeeded to the head coaching position a year later when Robinson stepped down to take an administrative post at the university (Robinson departed soon afterward to become head coach of the Los Angeles Rams). During his four-year tenure Tollner compiled a 26-20-1 record. He led the Trojans to the Pacific-10 conference championship in 1984. That team defeated Ohio State in the 1985 Rose Bowl game. He was replaced as the USC head coach by Larry Smith after the 1986 season after going 1-3 in the UCLA-USC rivalry and 0-4 vs. Notre Dame in the Notre Dame – USC rivalry.
In 1994, he returned to San Diego State, this time as the head coach. He coached there for 8 years. Tollner was known for scheduling a tough non-conference schedule including schools like Washington, Wisconsin, USC, Arizona, Arizona State and Oklahoma. His Aztec teams posted eight-win seasons in 1995 and 1996, the first time it reached that level in consecutive years since 1977. In 1998, his Aztecs posted a 7-1 conference record (7-5 overall), grabbed a share of the conference championship, and earned a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. Overall, he led the Aztecs to a 43-48 record until his firing in 2001.
Head coaching record
|USC Trojans (Pacific-10 Conference) (1983–1986)|
|San Diego State Aztecs (Western Athletic Conference) (1994–1998)|
|1994||San Diego State||4–7||2–6||8th|
|1995||San Diego State||8–4||5–3||5th|
|1996||San Diego State||8–3||6–2||T–2nd (Pacific)|
|1997||San Diego State||5–7||4–4||T–4th (Pacific)|
|1998||San Diego State||7–5||7–1||T–1st (Pacific)||L Las Vegas|
|San Diego State Aztecs (Mountain West Conference) (1999–2001)|
|1999||San Diego State||5–6||3–4||T–5th|
|2000||San Diego State||3–8||3–4||T–5th|
|2001||San Diego State||3–8||2–5||7th|
|San Diego State:||43–48||32–29|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|
|#Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.
He served as the wide receivers coach for the Buffalo Bills from 1987 to 1988. He served as the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers from 1989 to 1991. He served as the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams from 1992 to 1993. In 2002, he then became the quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers. After two successful seasons, he was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2004. When Dennis Erickson was fired as head coach, he was not retained. In 2005, he became the offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions. When Steve Mariucci and several of his assistants were fired 11 weeks into the season, Tollner was demoted to Tight End Coach for the remainder of the season. 
In late 2007 it was announced that he would serve as offensive assistant for the San Francisco 49ers in a late season attempt to revive the lacking offense and is expected to help Jim Hostler in the play calling.
On February 4, 2009, Tollner was introduced as a part of the Oakland Raiders' coaching staff as he was named the passing game coordinator of the team. When Hue Jackson was hired as the Raiders head coach he dismissed Toller and several others from their positions.
|San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator
|Detroit Lions Offensive Coordinators
|Oakland Raiders Passing Game Coordinator