Pro Football Talk dropped a bombshell today that had nothing to do with combine 40 times.
Per multiple league sources, the Cleveland Browns nearly pulled off a trade with the 49ers for the rights to coach Jim Harbaugh.
A deal that would have sent multiple draft picks to San Francisco was in place between the teams. But Harbaugh ultimately decided not to leave the 49ers.
It’s difficult to make sense of this story because there are so many moving parts. Michael Lombardi is close to Harbaugh, and after the recent coaching fiasco in Cleveland he was let go. Lombardi could be the source Mike Florio (PFT) is getting all this from, for all we know. The Browns could be floating this rumor to save face after looking more inept over the last month than the Dolphins during the Incognito brouhaha. We also don’t know how much money Harbaugh is looking for, or if he’s looking for control over personnel, but we can probably assume the answers to those questions are “a lot more than what he’s making now” and “the final say on all matters that aren’t directly related to the salary cap.”
#Browns spokesman Zak Gilbert on PFT Harbaugh story: “The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options …
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) February 21, 2014
#Browns spokesman cont: “That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we’re excited about his future with the club.”
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) February 21, 2014
So #Browns don’t deny Harbaugh story.
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) February 21, 2014
A lot of people pointed to an article from 2003 saying the NFL stopped allowing teams to trade coaches for picks, but that’s not true. The Jets sent Herm Edwards to the Chiefs for a fourth round pick (and a goddamned snack?) back in 2006.
We know how Trent Baalke loves to hoard picks (multiple first rounders and the chance to grab another head coach from The Farm might sound pretty tempting to the Baalkster), but what’s been lightly discussed but never totally proven is possible tension brewing in Santa Clara between the head coach and general manager.
As far as this Browns business is concerned, this is probably nothing more than some internal discussions that had little to no chance of going anywhere, but can now be leaked because, well, screw it. But we’re seeing a pattern. 49ers fans want to believe all the wins and playoff appearances have the power brokers in Santa Clara in perfect lockstep. Harbaugh arrived, the 49ers became relevant again and built a stadium. The decision-makers are grateful, Harbaugh’s blood runs red and gold, and as a result he’ll be around longer than Andy Lee.
But Harbaugh has two years on his contract, and there have been more rumors that sound ridiculous (Harbaugh to Texas, Harbaugh to Cleveland) than reports that an extension is coming anytime soon. If the UT stories — that Harbaugh did nothing to squash — rankled the 49ers, letting him know that he’s an asset like any other could’ve been a way to send a message.
It’s all speculation, but speculation can cause hurt feelings and establish bargaining positions.
What does all this mean? Unfortunately for those who’ve grown to love seeing a man berate officials while wearing $8 khakis, there’s a distinct possibility Harbaugh will end up elsewhere sooner than 99% of 49ers fans would like. Rumors like these, as ridiculous as they sound, haven’t circulated around Bill Belichick for over a decade. Nothing like this is ever reported about Pete Carroll, or Jim’s brother in Baltimore. The very existence of these wild tales brought to us by anonymous sources and rabid news breakers/aggregators means Harbaugh is inviting speculation, at least indirectly.
There are two things working against the 49ers and Harbaugh maintaining a relationship that lasts anywhere near as long as Bill Walsh’s 10-year tenure.
1. The 49ers have no advantage here simply because they’re the 49ers. The Seahawks are younger, and in 2013 they were better. Unless the 49ers’ offense improves dramatically and they figure out a way to patch together an above average secondary this offseason, that will probably remain the case. The point is, the 49ers aren’t the only place Harbaugh believes he could win. The 49ers have talent, sure, but Harbaugh probably thinks he can turn around just about any team. He’s spent a good deal of time living in the Bay Area, but location isn’t important. Lots of teams have new-ish stadiums, rabid fanbases and plenty of tradition. San Francisco holds an advantage over a couple terrible teams, like the Browns or Jaguars, but Harbaugh seems like he’d listen to just about anybody with money and a smart plan.
2. Harbaugh wants to be paid like a Super Bowl-winning coach, but a source told Matt Maiocco that the 49ers are hesitant to do so until Harbaugh actually does the deed.
Since PFT’s report, the 49ers have issued a denial. Here it is.
— Jed York (@JedYork) February 21, 2014
York needed to make a statement, and on the surface it’s easier to believe the 49ers than the Browns because Cleveland has nothing to lose. But with Harbaugh, anything can happen. Until he’s the highest-paid coach in the sport, that will remain the case.
I wouldn't be surprised if Harbaugh is given an extension and Baalke stays; it is a business regardless of how hard for them is to stay on the same page on everything. At least Baalke say being on the same page is something they pledge to work hard on.
One scenario is, after the draft Baalke gets fired and Harbaugh extended. Jed York will hear the whispers of Ed DeBartolo and the ghost of 10-year tenured 49er legendary coach Bill Walsh.
According to USA Today (Sunday edition), there is something to this story.
As I and others have said, this cannot make for smooth contract talks.
From this point forward it will be all business. No loyalties.
I think there is a rift between Harbaugh and Baalke and it is showing up in the news headlines a lot lately. It is an embarrassment, not entertainment to me. Harbaugh has been 41-1-13 the past 3 years, give him his long-term contract. Baalke is a good GM but he is expendable - who won games, Harbaugh or Baalke? Given, Baalke automatically gets credit for helping build the roster but the 49ers depend on different voices anyway, so let hin go. Harbaugh has to be signed to a long-term contract or I am going to be PISSED!
This rumor is a pure leverage play from the Harbaugh camp, because it really makes no sense from both sides.
The Niners need Harbaugh, he's the face of the franchise, brought the team back to prominence after years of irrelevance. They have a new stadium that's about to debut. Great coaches are rare. It would be a massive PR disaster to get rid of him now.
It also makes no sense for Harbaugh. He wants to win the Super Bowl. Where is he going to go that has a better roster and gives him a better chance? Seattle? Sorry, they already have a coach. Cleveland is god awful. They're like the 49ers of 2010 minus the talent. On top of that he would have to face his brother's Ravens twice a year. He's just going to up and leave that all behind?
No, somehow Harbaugh and his agent have concocted this artificially: another team shows interest and it puts pressure on the 49ers FO to extend him for more $$$ and calm the image of internal discord. And Cleveland is playing along because it helps to project them as relevant, and if they can disrupt another NFL franchise, then why not?
This can only make the contract negotiations more contentious that ever.
I was never aware that there was disharmony between the head coach and the GM.
story is the biggest crock of the year...
no way in he## was he leaving, no way....
if harbaugh is the type of coach that would rather be about himself then a super bowl, cleveland can have him
i don't believe a lick of the story...not one lick
A few things come out of this: Harbaugh is not wed to this situation , has a history of not staying long anywhere and Cleveland is willing to pay through the nose (they got rid of Rob Chuzinski twice over 4 seasons owing him over 10 mill). He has Midwestern as well as west coast room, but I can't see him going through the nonsense of playing his brother twice. After Dennis Allen is most likely blown out after the most difficult rated schedule and no talent, I would hope Mark Davis sees how much Harbaugh admired his dad if he's still a free agent. A Raider fan can dream.
Interesting stuff in above link -including a reminder of the Peyton Manning affair by Harbough and his BS denials of THAT, TOO.
Next stop for Jim Harbaugh . . . Texas (ATT) stadium.
I could see him pacing the sidelines wearing a navy blue baseball cap with a lone star.
One of the single stupidest trollling/see if it sticks rumors in a long time. Harbaugh is in one of the best situations in football, and hasn't been here long enough to burn out. There is no way the Niners are tired of him already, unless the Jed York is possessed by the angry ghost of Al Davis.
@BASportsGuy There is no Harbaugh-less future. Just despair.
I'm not saying that this is pure BS. Perhaps Cleveland showed interest and inquired. But Harbaugh and his agent took that sliver of interest and ran with it. Using everything to your advantage is pure Harbaugh.
@TSL To coach that joke of a team? Working for Jerry Jones?
My theory: Jimmy and the Niners have fallen out of love (reason?
Some are obvious, (Others open to speculation) - so Harbough has made his mind up to leave - NEXT year - when contract is up.
He and his operatives planted these stories - to give a year jump on the BIDDING WAR for Jimmy, next year. Teams now have a year to plan on getting rid of their current coach and build Fort Knox to offer Jimmy.
Why?!?!?!? It's just Jimmy being Jimmy.
@paperback writer Harbaugh has two years left on his contract.
Yeah, that's right, noticed that after I wrote my post.
Well 2years - for me - makes this WORSE!
The whole point of early re-upping contracts is to avoid distractions!
On that count-FAIL!