San Francisco 49ers vice president and director of football operations Dwight Clark might be on his way to joining former Niners president Carmen Policy in Cleveland.
The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting Clark is on the verge of joining the Browns and the 49ers already have contacted former general manager John McVay to replace Clark on an interim basis.
The move to Cleveland would not be surprising since Clark openly expressed his disappointment when Policy left the 49ers due to a strained relationship with embattled owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. After Policy officially resigned in July to join an ownership group seeking to buy the Browns, Clark said the 49ers were losing "the Jerry Rice of our front office."
Policy is a minority partner of the group headed by billionaire Al Lerner which was awarded the new Cleveland Browns by the NFL in September. Policy owns 10 percent of the franchise and will run the team's football operations. His likely choice for general manager would be Clark, in his fourth year as 49ers director of football operations.
The 49ers front office has been in transition since last December, when DeBartolo surrendered control of the team to his sister, Marie Denise DeBartolo York, after he was targeted in the federal investigation over a gambling license he obtained in Louisiana. DeBartolo recently pleaded guilty to a felony in a federal extortion probe involving former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards. He avoided prison under the plea agreement, but was placed on probation and fined $1 million in penalties.
Policy, DeBartolo's longtime personal attorney, managed the 49ers in his absence and York served as chairperson and CEO. But as DeBartolo's legal problems unfolded, a rift developed between Policy an DeBartolo. Without talking to DeBartolo, Policy resigned on July 22 and said their relationship was in "a deep freeze."
Larry Thrailkill, executive vice president of the DeBartolo Corporation, has been serving as interim chief executive of the 49ers. Clark and chief financial officer Bill Duffy have handled day-to-day operations of the team.
In his 10th season in the 49ers front office, Clark climbed through the ranks beginning with two years as executive administrative assistant in 1990, following one year as a marketing consultant.
In 1997, Clark was responsible for signing free agents Garrison Hearst and Kevin Gogan. Hearst rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season and Gogan was named to the Pro Bowl. This year, Clark was instrumental in signing younger free agents Gabe Wilkins, Winfred Tubbs, Antonio Langham and Irv Smith.
The 41-year-old Clark was one of the finest receivers in team history and is best known for making "The Catch" in the 1981 NFC Championship Game against Dallas. Clark leaped in the back of the end zone to catch a pass from Joe Montana to give the 49ers a 28-27 victory and their first trip to the Super Bowl. He was a member of San Francisco's championship teams in 1981 and 1984.
A 10th-round pick in 1979, Clark played nine years with the 49ers and retired as the team's all-time leader with 506 catches for 6,750 yards and 48 touchdowns. All of those records have since been shattered by Jerry Rice.
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