Carmen Policy: Warriors are new 'gold standard' in sports

Carmen Policy: Warriors are new 'gold standard' in sports

Editor’s note: The 49ers Insider Podcast with special guest Carmen Policy is available here.

The Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are meeting in the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year.

While that kind of two-team dominance has not occurred in a major American sporting league since the 1950s, there was something similar in the NFL in the 1990s.

The 49ers and Dallas Cowboys met in the NFC Championship games after the 1992, ’93 and ’94 seasons. The winner of those matchups produced the Super Bowl champion each season.

Former 49ers team president Carmen Policy joined the 49ers Insider Podcast and declared the Warriors are now the model by which all professional franchises should be judged.

"I think they’re the new gold standard in terms of organization, style of management, coaching, embracing the players as a family," Policy said.

Policy compared the 49ers’ 1994 signing of Deion Sanders after a second consecutive loss to the Cowboys in the playoffs to the Warriors’ addition of Kevin Durant. Sanders was voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and the 49ers went on to capture the franchise's fifth Super Bowl.

“I’ve thought about it often,” Policy said. “And I commended the Warriors and gave them a standing ovation here in my home for doing what they did, with the proviso that Kevin Durant has to fit.

“I also commended that team, because no matter how good Kevin Durant’s intentions, he’s not going to fit if the other stars on the team don’t let him. These guys were part of the recruiting process. These guys were part of the welcoming committee. They were able to look him in the eye and deal with him and follow through on their commitments and say, in effect, ‘This is about the team. This is about the Warriors. This isn’t about Steph Curry. This isn’t about Draymond Green. This isn’t about Klay Thompson. This is about the Warriors winning a championship.’”

Policy, who founded Casa Piena winery in Napa Valley, no longer has any connection to the 49ers. But he said he fully endorses the hirings of coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. He sent text messages to Shanahan and Lynch to congratulate them shortly after they were hired.

“I think, for a change, there’s some optimism about what’s happening with the Niners structure, in terms of the front office,” Policy said. “Because even when they were winning with (Jim) Harbaugh, you knew there was no harmony in that front office and you knew there was going to be conflict. You sensed that, OK, here we are at the family reunion dinner and, all right, everybody came and everybody’s sitting down, but you’re just so nervous because at any minute, somebody’s going to say something and a food fight will start.

“Kyle Shanahan is totally committed to X’s and O’s and coaching the team and doesn’t want to be the visible and verbal face of the franchise. He wants to coach football. He wants to become a championship-caliber coach with a championship-caliber team. And then you have John Lynch, who is a hard-working guy, one of these people, ‘OK, give me a goal. Once I have the goal, I’ll figure out how to get around all the obstacles.’”

49ers set aside cap space with an eye to the future


49ers set aside cap space with an eye to the future

The first wave of free agency is over, and the 49ers struck quickly.

The club identified two players coach Kyle Shanahan tabbed as fits for his offense and they paid the money it took to get them.

General manager John Lynch said there were five teams seriously interested in free-agent running back Jerick McKinnon. Even more teams were going after center Weston Richburg, he said.

That drove up the prices on McKinnon and Richburg to the point that they rank behind only quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ($37 million) as taking up the most cap space among the 72 players currently under contract to the 49ers.

McKinnon and Richburg account for $10.5 million and $9.26 million, respectively, on the 49ers' salary cap. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman's deal takes up $6.175 million on the 49ers' cap this season.

The big spending to attract free agents to the team is likely over. The 49ers have $45.1 million in cap space, according to the NFL Players Association. That figure does not include a projected $8.3 million to sign their 2018 rookie class, according to overthecap.com.

The major spending for this offseason is over because the 49ers have apparently looked to the future and set aside cap space with the idea of retaining some of their own players whose contracts are winding down.

The first decisions for the future must occur by May 3, the deadline for picking up the fifth-year options on first-round picks from the 2015 draft. The 49ers have decisions to make on defensive lineman Arik Armstread and left guard Laken Tomlinson, who was acquired from Detroit in a trade just prior to the start of the 2017 regular season.

It is still unclear how or if Armstead’s skills fit into the 49ers’ defense. He opened last season at the team's pass-rush end before moving to the "big end," which also appears to be first-round pick Solomon Thomas' best position.

Tomlinson showed reasons for the 49ers to be optimistic about his future as his play got better as he acclimated to the offense. Among the guards already on the 49ers’ roster, Tomlinson appears to be the most likely to be a starter in 2018.

Presumptive starting safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents next offseason. Ward’s fifth-year option deal of one-year, $8.526 million became fully guaranteed last Wednesday. But in order for the 49ers to make a multi-year commitment, Ward would likely have to prove he can remain healthy and available for a full season.

DeForest Buckner is likely the target for the next blockbuster contract extension. Buckner has emerged as one of the top young defensive linemen in the league. Next offseason will be the first time the 49ers are permitted to negotiate a multi-year extension with him.

With a scarcity of offensive linemen available in the draft and free agency, right tackle Trent Brown could be set to cash in with an enormous deal next offseason – either with the 49ers or some other team.

DL Arik Armstead
FS Jimmie Ward
SS Jaquiski Tartt
RT Trent Brown
LB Eli Harold
LG Laken Tomlinson
K Robbie Gould
P Bradley Pinion

DL DeForest Buckner
LT Joe Staley
OG Joshua Garnett
DL Ronald Blair
TE Garrett Celek
RB Matt Breida (RFA)
WR Kendrick Bourne (RFA)

Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in


Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in

The 49ers concluded the first wave of the free-agent signing period with the signings of players to fill the team’s biggest offseason needs.

--Cornerback. Aqib Talib would have been the answer in a trade with the Denver Broncos, but he wanted to play elsewhere. Instead, the 49ers signed veteran Richard Sherman, whom the Seattle Seahawks cut a day earlier.

--Interior offensive line. Center Weston Richburg was the player the team had rated as their top target in free agency, and they signed him to a lucrative five-year deal.

--Running back. The team decided Jerick McKinnon was a better fit than Carlos Hyde. They wrapped him up with a four-year contract.

--Edge rusher. Lacking many options in free agency, the 49ers signed Jeremiah Attaochu to a one-year contract in hopes he will earn a spot on the team and make a contribution at the “Leo” position.

The 49ers can still use more help at a number of different positions, including cornerback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and edge rusher. While the 49ers might add some role players in the second wave of free agency, most of the major acquisitions at this point are likely to come in the draft.

On the 49ers Insider Podcast, 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters addressed what positions he believes are strong in this year’s draft.

“I think running backs, absolutely. It’s a deep position,” Peters said. “Quarterbacks at the top is deeper than it was last year. Secondary, corners, it’s not deeper than it was last year, but it’s a strong class of corners. Those are the main ones. The offensive line class is a little better than last year, too.”

The 49ers got major contributions from their rookie class last season. Tight end George Kittle, receiver Trent Taylor, quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back Matt Breida, defensive lineman Solomom Thomas, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Adrian Colbert each played more than 300 snaps.

The 49ers feel good about Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, as a starter with Sherman on the other side. Peters said a lot of the team’s rookies played larger roles than expected in 2017, but Witherspoon might have been at the top of the list.

“I don’t think he was active for the first four games,” Peters said of Witherspoon. “And he ended up playing at a high level at the end. Really driven, conscientious player who wants to be great. 

"We were lucky we got a chance to play a lot of rookies because that’ll help us moving forward.”