Posted February 21, 2014

Jim Harbaugh nearly traded from 49ers to Browns, according to report

Cleveland Browns, NFC West, San Francisco 49ers
Jim Harbaugh nearly traded from San Francisco 49ers to Cleveland Browns?

Jim Harbaugh has two years remaining on a five-year deal he signed with the 49ers prior to 2011. (John Froschauer/AP)

(UPDATE, 6:15 p.m. ET: 49ers CEO Jed York tweeted the “Report isn’t true,” following a contentious online exchange between Pro Football Talk and Ian Rapoport.)

The Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers nearly pulled off a blockbuster trade recently that would have sent Jim Harbaugh to Cleveland in exchange for draft picks, Pro Football Talk reported. According to Mike Florio, the deal “was in place between the teams”; Harbaugh nixed it to stay with San Francisco.

Cleveland then hired ex-Buffalo defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

“The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options,” the Browns said in a statement Friday. “That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we’re excited about his future with the club.”

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that a 49ers source called the report “completely false. Ridiculous.”

Harbaugh’s current contract situation is hovering over the 49ers’ offseason a bit. He’s currently through three seasons of the five-year, $25 million deal he signed prior to 2011, but the two sides reportedly have discussed an extension. Harbaugh said in December that he “absolutely” wants to remain in San Francisco.

However, final say over the roster currently rests with GM Trent Baalke, a dynamic with which Harbaugh reportedly may not be all that thrilled. According to CSNBayArea, the 49ers also gave Harbaugh permission last offseason to seek his own endorsement deals up to $1 million.

The Browns hold two first-round picks in the 2014 draft: Nos. 4 and 26 overall. Terms of the proposed Harbaugh deal were not released, but it stands to reason that at least one and possibly both of those picks could have headed San Francisco’s way in exchange for its head coach.

Suffice it to say, had the trade gone through, it would have been a stunning moment in NFL history, though not an unprecedented one. The Patriots sent the Jets a first-round draft pick in 2000. Then, in 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Jon Gruden away from the Oakland Raiders in exchange for two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8 million. Gruden then led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory — over the Raiders, no less — the subsequent season. The Jets and Chiefs also pulled off a coach trade, in 2006 with Herm Edwards moving to New York for a fourth-round pick.

For as much as the Browns’ statement stands out for its lack of a denial, that this potential trade reportedly reached the point of simply needing Harbaugh’s go-ahead hardly stands as a glowing endorsement of his future in San Francisco. After winning the NFC title in 2012 and taking the 49ers back to the conference title game in 2013, Harbaugh hardly could be considered on the hot seat. The lingering contract talks and perhaps that complicated relationship with Baalke pushed the 49ers to explore such a possibility.

Throughout Cleveland’s lengthy coaching search, there was chatter about the possibility of at least one “mystery” candidate for the position. At one point in January, the team reportedly interviewed Greg Schiano, a development that at least temporarily appeared to solve that puzzle.

The truth, it turns out, ran much deeper than that.

34 comments
bornindetroit
bornindetroit

The guy alienates people over time - over a short period of time. He's a d'bag extraordinaire.

JosephBagadoughnutz
JosephBagadoughnutz

Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times takes a look at Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. Included is a vignette about his father, Jon, a former Portland Trail Blazers executive. Jon Spoelstra was a central figure in one of the N.B.A.’s more unusual trades. As a Portland executive, he shipped himself to the Indiana Pacers in 1983 for a couple weeks of his marketing expertise in exchange for point guard Don Buse.

Wisconsin Death Trip
Wisconsin Death Trip

It's fun to see the managers/coaches get the yank in trade talks. Seeing a coach get sent down to the "minor leagues" even if a rumor is hilarious of sorts. What goes through a guys mind when HIS (or so he thinks) team sends him packing to a rebuilding job from hell. MO MONEY? lol

JeffBockert
JeffBockert

Nobody wants to live in Cleveland. 

Phroggo
Phroggo

Just spoke with Harbaugh and he confirmed the deal. Said he'd a gone to Cleveland if they had indoor plumbing at the Browns' facility.

tahawus
tahawus

“That search produced an outstanding head coach, um, what's his name, you know - the latest guy, Mike, uh, Mike something or other, and we’re excited about his future with the club.”

pirate
pirate

Did the Browns consider it? Possible. Anything is possible with the Browns. But to think the Niners would have thought about it for a minute, let alone let it get to the point of Harbaugh putting the kibosh on it, you'd have to believe they thought their lineup was so weak they needed to fill gaping holes at the cost of a coach who'd taken them twice to the NFC title game and once to the Super Bowl – and S.F. has arguably one of the five or six strongest lineups in the NFL. It's ridiculous on its face.

JackHoff
JackHoff

I heard this was true. 

BryanCustard
BryanCustard

We can't really make any conclusions without knowing the offer. If Cleveland called and said I'll give you both ones this year, our one next year and a two- then you take it pretty much no matter who your coach is lol

nineteen84
nineteen84

I don't really buy it.


Sure, there were probably "talks"-which likely means one phone call by the Browns before being laughed at and hung up on.

akc88
akc88

Apparently, Harbaugh's wife didn't want to move to Cleveland so he nixed the deal.  Sounds completely believable as he would've gotten more money and more power there and wouldn't have to deal with Baalke.

marksitko
marksitko

easy to say something almost happened - Browns almost signed Chip Kelly too - and I almost was invited the combine this year - really poor reporting - and what happened to the rest of this sentence - "The Patriots sent the Jets a first-round draft pick in 2000." - Wow, that is really interesting Chris Burke - care to explain why a team would just give another team their first round pick for no compensation. BAD WRITING...

jworsr
jworsr

I also declined the Browns' offer to coach ~ although my declination followed Harbaugh's.....

gskat
gskat

so this is BIG NEWS!...that DIDN'T happen? (Filled some space)


ballhawk2925
ballhawk2925

There's little reason to believe this rumor is true. I don't really trust Mike Florio or Ian Rapoport, with the former breaking the story and the latter adamantly denying it, citing two high ranking Niners sources. Ultimately, I loved Jed York's response to Pro Football Talk asking why the 49ers wouldn't deny the report.

The_truth_hurts
The_truth_hurts

Trade him. This guy is a wacko. He can easily be replaced by someone on the Niners. 

ianlinross
ianlinross

Bizarre. Like Harbaugh is going to agree to go to Cleveland. What is this, the 1920s?

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

How exciting.  Whether it's true or not, how terribly exciting.

And in the end, THAT, not truth, is all that sports so-called "journalists" really care about.

pirate
pirate

I absolutely cannot believe this. Simply don't believe there's a word of truth in it.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

There was never a chance. Harbaugh would have had to agree, and the chances of that are slim and none. And Slim is down in Texas.

Hardball
Hardball

Run like a scalded ostrich Jim Harbaugh. Or just get used the grill.

dawgpoundgal
dawgpoundgal

I find this very difficult to believe.  If Jim Harbaugh even considered this, he would have been talking about a situation where he would coach against his brother twice a year.  I have read that the two of them are competitive, but would it come to this?  Hmmm.....

mgranadosv
mgranadosv

This would be too smart a move by Cleveland. Therefore it's false.

wjoinfo1
wjoinfo1

I'm not a big fan of Harbaugh's personality, but he's one heck of a coach. If San Francisco would have let him go because of conflict between him and the GM, they would have been considered idiots. You have to believe they would let Baalke go before Harbaugh. This story is definitely very hard to believe......................

Steelontop200
Steelontop200

Not that this can't be true, but I find it hard to believe anything that comes out of the Cleveland Browns organization. 

stewartjk1
stewartjk1

@pirate How would you not consider it for multiple draft picks including 2 first rounders? 

Marty2
Marty2

@JackHoff  All the reporters have to do is ask Haraugh himself.  If he says his standard line about only talking about his present job - it's most likely  true.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@pirate  I have no idea if it's true or not.  But, coaches have been traded before.  Also, nothing the 49'ners can do to STOP another team from contacting them and saying what do you think about this?


Celevland is messed up enough that them doing this wouldn't strike me as that odd.


Again, San Francisco or any team CAN'T stop another team from calling them up and making an offer.


Now what the Niners did when/if they received this offer would be another story.


I can't imagine they would have entertained it.  The window has NOT closed yet with this Niners team.  There is no reason to rock the boat like that.


Now, if this were like three years from now and the team was coming apart due to age and money etc... maybe a shake up would be in order (many draft picks to get younger and cheaper to help them start over).


But with the status quo in San Francisco, they should have simply said thanks but no thanks (if this offer did indeed occur).

Steelontop200
Steelontop200

@wjoinfo1 For an organization that's had a hard time finding good coaches since George Seifert, they'd be stupid to even hear anything that involves losing Harbaugh over anything or anyone short of him demanding complete control of personnel decisions.

pirate
pirate

@stewartjk1 @pirate How could you even consider it when you've already got a great lineup and a coach whose done so well in such a short time? I'm a Seahawks fan, I'd love to see the Niners make a huge mistake like that. But I can't possibly believe this ridiculous report. It makes no sense.


GO HAWKS!