Well, this was a fun interview, to say the least. Former San Francisco 49ers president and CEO Carmen Policy made an appearance on KNBR Wednesday morning (AUDIO), and he did not hold anything back in discussing the current state of the franchise. It opened with him not pulling punches, but he seemed to take a step back as the interview moved along.
He opened with his dismay about not being included in the 49ers Museum, in spite of his extensive contributions in the 1980s and early 1990s. He said he did not know why, but clearly it bugs him. He even dropped a Stalin comparison that will certainly raise some eyebrows.
He also talked about Mike Shanahan, and why he felt he made sense as a potential coaching candidate. He did not come out and fully endorse Shanahan, but he said he could see how that makes sense.
Finally, he got into some of the Jim Harbaugh drama, including whether or not he and Eddie DeBartolo could have worked with Harbaugh. He had a great discussion about George Patton in discussing why you make this kind of thing work.
Here is the transcript, with some Raiders discussion edited out.
On not being in the 49ers Museum:
It's as though I don't exist. I mean, you know, Joseph Stalin used to re-write history, and he eliminated people that he didn't want the history books to mention as being part of Russia's greatness. And I've been written out.
On why he is not in there:
I really don't know. Maybe they didn't realize that I was president of the club at one time and I was there with Eddie when Bill Walsh was hired back in January of 1979. Maybe they aren't aware of the fact that I kind of went to work every morning there. I just...I have no way of answering. Although, when I read the last letter to the fans from the 49ers, they didn't mention Eddie in there either. I saw that Mr. DeBartolo, Sr. was mentioned, but there was no mention of Eddie. It seems to me that Eddie owned the team as managing owner for about 21 years, and won 5 Super Bowls, and the team competed in probably four NFC championships, maybe five, that they weren't able to be successful in. They had Hall of Famers, and great coaches, and some pretty interesting times, but I don't see Eddie even mentioned.
On it bugging him:
Oh, a little bit, it does. I have to be honest with you."
On what could have led to it, putting own stamp:
I think that's partially it, to be honest with you. I think everybody wants to do their own thing, their own way. And as you put it, Gary, put their own stamp on it. I think that even perhaps some of the comments coming out of the alumni players may rub them the wrong way when they hear a little criticism being levied by some of the guys in the Hall of Fame about some of the present people playing on the field, or maybe even coaching, or maybe even in the front office. And I don't know, perhaps it's just human nature. And maybe it's just something that goes the natural flow of change, and shall we saw, restructuring.
Jokingly on no plans for statue of Giden Yu that he knows of:
Well, I don't think he was there very long. Probably a pretty smart guy, and he is obviously a very successful guy, but again, I have no insight into the operation of the 49ers. I attempted, as I worked with the city of San Francisco, to give them an alternative in case their project in Santa Clara fell by the wayside. And we did a good job of getting Hunter's Point entitled and set up for a stadium in the event that it worked for the Niners. Perhaps that effort was misconstrued as being an obstructionist to their Santa Clara goal, but I saw it as giving them options, and there was absolutely not a finger raised by anybody in San Francisco to interfere with their efforts in Santa Clara. Especially when there was an election being held, and a campaign being run.
On Mike Shanahan as a candidate for HC job:
Well, I could see some wisdom in that, I really can, because first of all, Shanahan regardless of what may have or may not have happened in Washington, is an outstanding coach. He is an offensive genius. He not only understood the Walsh system, he took it to another level. I think that if you talk to Steve Young, Steve will tell you that Shanahan was a huge influence on him during the years that Shanahan was offensive coordinator. I feel that he was a significant contributor to our winning the Super Bowl during the 1994 season, for Super Bowl 29. And then he went on and won another Super Bowl with John Elway. And they said, well he had John Elway. Well, they had John Elway before Shanahan got there and never won a Super Bowl. As a matter of fact, one of the teams that we faired very, very favorably against was the Denver Broncos and John Elway when we played them in the Super Bowl. I think that his experience, his wisdom, his toughness, and his ability to deal with offense and quarterbacks would be a natural. And I think that it would help them a great deal.
On Harbaugh stuff, and Jed being a young guy handed a team:
I think you're making a good point, and I think that Jed is a very smart, young man. And I think he obviously has polish and has a way about him that gives him a sense of maturity. But I do agree with you that perhaps without having the adversity you're talking about, without having the experience, without having gone through, shall we say, the tough years, it kind of doesn't prepare you for the hurricane force of bad publicity or adversity, or things not quite going the way you hoped they would, or expected them to go. And don't forget, his uncle Eddie was christened with combat experience from the day Eddie took over as owner of the 49ers. He was ridiculed personally, physically, and from the standpoint of his inability to run the team, you may remember the press was merciless.
What's the physically:
I mean, when they used to refer to his height ... Lowell Cohn was actually the one who says when he sits in his seat in the owner's box, his feet don't touch the ground. I mean that's getting pretty....
Could Eddie/Carmen have handled Harbaugh:
Well let me just say this, I don't know Jim Harbaugh, but I knew Bill Walsh. And Bill Walsh was no day at the beach. He was a genius, he was great, he did fantastic and amazing things while he was the, not only the head coach, but effective general manager of the 49ers. But he was a challenge to deal with, and I think Eddie and I through some tough times, through some funny times, and through some glorious times, were able to maintain that relationship to the point where we could all work together. When it was all said and done, there was a love-fest between Eddie and Bill. And I think Eddie was one of the people, one of the most important elements of Bill's later life. And actually, helped Bill through those last couple of years of his life, in a way that was very, shall we say, emotional, supportive, and inspirational. So, can I ramble a little bit more? [Host: Please!]
I was on the beach in Hawaii with two grandkids over the past week, and I just finished Bill O'Reilly's book Killing Patton. And as I was reading that book, I just kept thinking about the question you just asked me. And I thought about Walsh, and I thought about Harbaugh, and the amazing thing about Patton, he was a great, great general. And he was very successful as a general. They say he was the most successful American general during World War 2, maybe the most successful allied general during World War 2, and maybe the most feared by the Nazis. And yet, there was always a call to have him removed from duty, to have him demoted, because he would do things that weren't totally politically correct. Or he would irritate people, or not follow the protocol, or political game plan that was being laid down. And people went to Eisenhower constantly, asking for him to be removed from his prominent position. And Eisenhower would get all upset with him, but he said ultimately, "Patton fights, and Patton wins, and I'm not going to remove him."
If you're going to want a head coach in the NFL, who is going to be competitive every year, not only take you to the point where you have a winning season, maybe even make the playoffs. But you want to set the standard for your team being in the Super Bowl every year, you've got to deal with a guy who is capable of winning, who is capable of being tough, and capable of being able to promote his team in a way that says we are striving to be the best and nothing else will do.
On Jed York needing an advisor like Carmen Policy or John McVay as buffer for volatility:
Let's remove me from the discussion. There's part of me that would like to answer your question one way. But I think intelligently, my right answer should be, I have no way of knowing what was going on down there, so it's not fair of me to say what would have happened if I were involved. I will say however, that there has to be a rapport within the existence of these high pressure positions that allows people to have the kind of interaction that puts them in the right place at the right time, and causes them to not self-destruct, that allows pressure to be released at times, so that the pressure cooker doesn't blow up in everybody's face. Allows them to sit down, logically, and sit down and try and bring everybody to the center, if you will. Bring everybody to the table with the understanding where everybody's coming from. And also, to do something with this in advance, to make sure that you've anticipated, having experienced it, anticipated some of these problems, so that you can as best you can, be ready for them when they do hit, and be equipped to deal with them.
On nobody jumping out as an HC candidate for 49ers:
I think you're right, Gary. It's not like it was four years ago, where you had the feeling Harbaugh was the right guy, go chase him, go after him. Don't let Steve Ross from Miami get him. Don't let anybody else get him. He's here, he's in your backyard. You've got the Stanford connection and it goes back to Walsh. Don't even let him leave the office. Pay him more than you ever thought you would pay a college coach coming in, without any true, extensive NFL experience. And they did that. And they should be applauded for having made that decision, because look what happened? Three years in a row, in my opinion, great seasons. As a matter of fact, the timing was perfect as well, because I think Harbaugh's three seasons helped sell out Levi's Stadium. I think without it, their lifting would have been much, much more heavy.
On whether move to new stadium is a bust:
It's not fair of me to answer that question, because I am not sure I am capable of being objective on that subject. I wanted them to stay in San Francisco, I thought that was the right thing for them to do. I understood they needed a new stadium, wanted a new stadium, that's where they wanted to be, that's where they thought they could get it done. So I don't think it's fair, Gary, for me to give an opinion on this.
So you think it bombed?
I don't know.