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.’”

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense


What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA – Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not win the right to suit up for the 49ers’ first four games. Behind the scenes, he made it his mission to earn a contributing role.

“He really started to get better with his coordination with his feet from the bump-and-run coverage and from playing ‘off.’ There’s always a light that goes on,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we felt that for a couple weeks from Ahkello. Once he did that, he definitely earned the right to be out there.”

The plan was for Witherspoon to rotate into the action and share time with starters Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. But he played just six snaps on Oct. 8 against Indianapolis before sustaining a concussion. Witherspoon returned to action last week and played 34 of the 49ers’ 74 snaps last week at Washington. He showed enough to coninue getting significant playing time.

“He’s earned the right to play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He works his tail off in practice. He’s so deliberate in his approach. Whether it was scout team, whether it was team reps, whether it was walk-through, it didn’t matter.”

Witherspoon, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick at No. 66 overall, had a pedestrian training camp. Taking his lumps in August showed him what he needed to do to get into real games in October.

“I really turned up my focus, my intent every day in practice,” Witherspoon said. “What I did in camp wasn’t good enough to be a starting corner in this league, and that’s what I learned.

“I really focused on being aware of what it takes. That’s something I implemented these last four weeks -- that every day focus and competing on every single ball, and taking the mindset that no ball’s caught on me. I think that’s really helped my game, and helped these coaches trust me, as well.”

Witherspoon expected Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to attack him. But of the 25 plays he was in coverage last week, Witherspoon saw only three passes come his way. He surrendered two receptions for 33 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Just being a rookie, I thought it was going to come, where they were going to be taking that one shot,” Witherspoon said. “I kept waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t happen. Going up against a smart quarterback, I know he saw me out there.

“There were a few times he looked my way in coverage. I wasn’t perfect in coverage, but I think he was looking. And I thought I did a good job.”

Witherspoon (6 foot 3, 195 pounds) is comfortable lining up on either side of the field, which he did during his college career at Colorado. He said he has not put on much weight but he has added more muscle, which has allowed him a better chance to compete physically against bigger NFL receivers.

Witherspoon fully expects to be challenged on Sunday when he is expected to see considerable playing time against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Witherspoon figures Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be paying particularly close attention any time Dez Bryant lines up on his side of the field.

“They’re going to be looking at the ‘rook,’ ” Witherspoon said.

Said Shanahan, “They’re going to try to do that with all our DBs, so I don’t think it even matters who’s out there. They’re going to attack when we’re in single safety, which we are the majority of the time. They’re going to go outside and keep going out there until you stop them.”

* * *

EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch Kyle Shanahan's full sit-down interview with Matt Maiocco on "49ers Game Plan," which is scheduled to air Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine


49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.

Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.

In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.

Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.

After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.