Sources: Browns nearly traded with 49ers for Jim Harbaugh

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The Browns’ unpredictable head-coaching search nearly finished with what would have been the most unpredictable outcome of any head-coaching search since Jon Gruden was traded from the Raiders to the Buccaneers a dozen years ago.

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.

The 49ers could not immediately be reached for comment.  Efforts to contact the 49ers continue.

The Browns declined to comment specifically on whether an effort was made to acquire Jim Harbaugh.  The Browns characterized the search as thorough, and the Browns acknowledged that many options were considered.  The Browns emphasized that the team is excited about its new coach Mike Pettine.

A deal would have been stunning, for several reasons.  Harbaugh has taken the 49ers to the NFC title game in each of his three years with the team.  Also, he would have joined the same division as his brother, Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

Which means they would have been squaring off at least twice per year, and competing directly for division titles and/or wild-card positioning.

137 responses to “Sources: Browns nearly traded with 49ers for Jim Harbaugh

  1. For a coach who has had nothing but success since he entered the league, you would expect the 9ers to bend over backwards to make Harbaugh happy.

  2. Wow that would have been crazy. He’s much better off in San Fran. I’m a Charger fan so it matters nothing to me but In all seriousness though its been a long time for the Browns since they were relavent. I hope they can get things turned around. They’ve been down too long. I like rooting for the underdogs so I wouldn’t mind seeing them get back into contention.

  3. Wow. But why was SanFran even listening to trading away Harbaugh? That doesn’t sound like good news for Jim. Maybe he should have taken the trade. But it was to the Brown so smart move by him.

  4. That would have been the worst trade ever. For the Niners.

    Draft picks are great– world-class head coaches that fit the mold are way more valuable.

  5. I just don’t see myself trading draft picks – the cheapest and theoretically healthiest and therefore most efficient players you can own – for a coach. Draw a coach with money, they don’t cost you in the salary cap!

  6. HAHAHA! I think its awesome as a Seahawks fan, that respects the Heck out of the niners, but can’t stand their coach, that they thought about trading him. That is just awesome.

  7. I’m not a big Jim Harbaugh guy but those two squaring off twice a year is compelling football. It just goes to show how competitive Jim is for even considering the move. I mean, San Fran for Cleveland? (and I proudly live in NE Ohio)

  8. Whoever comes in to coach the Clowns has to be a Vince Lombardi. Only problem for Clowns fans is that there was only one Vince Lombardi.
    Expect them to be the Cubs of football for a very long time.

  9. Let’s see… a loaded team with all pros at linebacker/dline/secondary/oline/tight end and a young QB with speed and a big arm…

    then there’s Cleveland…. no, just no.

  10. What would possibly have been in that for Harbaugh? Money? He’s a Stanford guy so he’s presumably got a life in the Bay area at this point. The Niners have an infinitely better roster than the Browns. And, as pointed out, San Francisco is a pretty nice place if you’re making millions of dollars a year.

    This does not compute.

  11. That would be a bad deal for both teams. The 49ers have a great coach, which is hard to find. They don’t need draft picks. The Browns need draft picks to add talent, which is harder to get than a good coach, and there is no guarantee that Harbaugh would be as successful in Cleveland as he is in San Francisco.

  12. If they could have gotten away with it not affecting this years draft, I think it would have been a win-win. The soon to be very talented browns who have a boat lad of cap space would get a very good (even though he’s a pain in the rear) coach; and Harbaugh, whose niners team is a year away from going down the tubes, would have gone to a fast rising team in the AFC…where its a lot easier to get to the SB.

  13. In other words, get ready for the fall 49er fans. Harbaugh is out of there soon. He’s obviously not getting along with some of the same low life ladder climbers in that organization that forced Scott McCloughan out 4 years ago, and the roster is suffering for it as the core of what he put together continues to leave and Baalke doesn’t replace as many of them as he should, simply because he’s not as good as McCloughan.

  14. Wow i would’ve been extactic if this had happened. But im ok with pettine. He seems to be a good smart football coach so hopefully he and Ray Farmer can fix this team because no fanbase deserves a winner more than Cleveland. We have the absolute best fans and the most loyal too. Fill the holes on offense(wr,rb,and qb) and defense(CB,Lb,FS) through the draft and free agency and lets start winning some games.
    Go Browns

  15. Aw shucks!! That woulda meant that the Niners woulda signed Schiano or Philips, and then we’d only have to be concerned with the Cardinals. Oh well.

  16. Not surprising. Mike Lombardi was likely behind it if it was true. Lombardi has had nothing but great things to note when talking about their time together in Oakland.

    Plus there were rumors of a Lombardi-Harbaugh reunion in San Francisco when Harbaugh was on the verge of getting the job.

  17. Not surprising. Mike Lombardi was likely behind it if it was true. Lombardi has had nothing but great things to note when talking about their time together in Oakland.

    Plus there were rumors of a Lombardi-Harbaugh reunion in San Francisco when Harbaugh was on the verge of getting the job.

  18. In football the coach is more important and involved in game outcomes and preparation than in baseball, basketball and hockey combined. Why would the 49ers, even for one minute, consider this? Harbaugh isn’t a popular coach… but he’s a WINNER. He is easily one of the three best coaches in this league, top 10% without question. I don’t get this at all. I really don’t. Trade a young, bright, uber competitive winner and leader for some draft picks???

  19. umm i could be wrong on this but didnt they ban the “trading” of coaches for draft picks after the gruden deal?

    Or did that eventually get repealed… If thats the case why aren’t teams like Baltimore getting compensation for Detroit hiring Caldwell as head coach since he was still under contract with Baltimore…

  20. Harbaugh thought about it, you know he did. He knows with kapernick, and that the hawks are younger and better, he has practically no shot all things being equal (no injury to Russell Wilson) at winning the division, or the NFC title anytime soon.

  21. That’s insane!!! That’s like the BB jets’ trade to the my Pats. Thanks Jets….5 SB appearances, 3 SB wins, 8 AFCS appearances, and 12 AFC East tittles.

    Keep Jim Harbaugh in the NFC please!!!

  22. I heard Harbaugh wants full say over personnel like BB, Chip, Carroll, Reid (not sure if he does anymore). So this may not be the last we hear of this. It’s surprising a coach with his success would even be allowed to speak with another club. This is not the last weve heard of this I assume.

  23. Even as a Bengals fan, I feel sorry for Browns fans. The “real” Browns go to Baltimore and win 2 Superbowls. Meanwhile, Cleveland gets stuck with this dysfunctional train wreck of an expansion team. Now they’re stuck with what appears to be a lame-duck coach, only to learn that they almost landed a premier coach in Jim Harbaugh. Harsh. At least they have a wealth of draft picks…and Josh Gordon.

  24. Chiefs gave a 4th round pick for Herm Edwards, you know, the guy NY was going to fire… I still despise Carl Peterson for that hire. Tried to sell it as if KC fans had their head in the sand and that a defensive coach could balance Vermeils left over offense. What a waste of 4 years that was.

  25. I don’t think Jim is long for the SF job as his history shows a lot of movement. As uncomfortable as he seemed going up against his brother both times I can’t see him wanting to be in the same division. He will leave this team faster then most fans would like. Carroll is older and likely on his last job in a great situation. Harbaugh is just starting his career and will be gone within 4 years I think

  26. The 49ers 3-year reign as the “Second Best Team in Football” is about to end. And in case you are wondering, they aren’t going to be moving up the ladder.

  27. I hate to say this but………good coaches still need talent to win… Good talent makes average coaches look great… Bad talent makes great coaches look poor.. Your luck you didn’t jump on this Jim!!!!

  28. There have been many reports going back over the past 2 years that Jim likes it his way and Balke likes it his and their completely different and regularly disagree ..

    A storm is coming for one of them . Remember Jim was rumored to be interested in the University of Texas job . And that he wants a lot more control especially over personnel decisions . This is dysfunction at the beginning . Something will give but it’s obvious their is MAJOR PROBLEMS bc no one would consider leaving a beautiful place like the bay with history in the organization and local (recent ) support for the brownies .. Just shows the level of distaste between the two heads of power .

    I know this as a serious football fan and I am a huge Seahawks fan always looking for material . The signs were on the wall . Honestly I see it becoming an issue after this season .

  29. If it is true, one has to question the brain trust running the 49ers. I know Harbaugh has his issues, but does no one remember the Erickson, Nolan, Singletary era? Good coaches just don’t fall off a tree.

  30. Pause for a moment: would the Packers have traded Vince Lombardi? The Cowboys Tom Landry? Even Bill Walsh is out of the question. How about the Patriots and Bill Belichick. It’s absurd to even think the idea.

    Question: why would the 49’ers even THINK about trading a successful coach?

    Answer: they must not like him personally.

    Could the “excitable one” be wearing out his welcome in nearly everyone’s idea of a dream location?

  31. Surprise, surprise. Another “unnamed source” claiming something crazy. The 49ers had 15 draft picks last year and 12 this year, and supposedly they were going to trade their head coach that helped bring them out of a decade of mediocrity for more picks? Right…

  32. This worries me. There was talk about treat and Jim not getting along and this confirms it. Why would you give up one of the most successful head coaches in the NFL for unproven rookies?

  33. Smart man. He probably realizes what most of you soon will. THE NFC WEST BELONGS TO PETE AND THE BOYS!!! Just crown them the dynasty they are!!!! Jim knows this!!!!! Browns!!! What a JOKE of a franchise!! Hawks THREEPEAT!!!!!

    GO HAWKS!!!!

  34. Everyone knows Harbaugh is a passionate guy who wants to be “the man”. As a niner fan, I suspect he has 3 years or less here before he and Baalke have a falling out over GM duties (or Jim just get bored and wants a new project). Would anyone begrudge the niners for trading 3 years of Jim’s coaching for a first and second rounder and Joe Haden (Just an example of a “godfather” offer the Browns could make… I have no idea what they offered)? Keep in mind the niners have three HC candidates on the team already: Roman, Fangio, Mangini.

    To everyone saying he would never do this: Harbaugh is from the midwest. If they gave him coaching and personnel power, and then raised his salary from $5M a year to $15M (not a joke… he’s worth that and more), is it really so crazy to think he’d go? Of course not. Keep in mind the niners made zero playoffs in ten years before he arrived there too. He’s not afraid of any job I suspect (plus they actually have good young players and tons of cap space).

  35. It actually makes sense from Hairbow’s perspective.
    As whiny and irritating as he is, he’s got to be savvy enough to know that he’s already peaked in SF.
    That team has gotten as far as they ever will with Kaepernick under center. They’re going to start bleeding players and having to deal with salary cap issues. It’s pretty much going to be downhill from here.
    Going to Cleveland would have been risky, but how valuable would it be to his career to be the coach that turned that mess around? After coming to SF and fixing that one? Besides, he LOVES the spotlight. Playing against his brother for the division every year would have put him on ESPN practically every week.

    Not quite as crazy as it seems at first.

  36. There is friction between Balke and Harbaugh…. it has been reported before and stories like this keep feeding the narrative.

    1 of these two guys won’t be in Santa Clara for the long haul

  37. Did the league change the 2003 ban on trading coaches for picks after the Gruden trade?

    A little clarification or some fact checking from the “multiple sources” would be nice to see how they were planning on trading away picks for him when it’s against the rules

  38. I wonder who’s crazy idea that was?…

    Harbaugh declined to take the job because he would be working under Joe Banner.

    Can’t blame Harbaugh for that.

  39. I don’t even consider Harbaugh to be an elite coach. Ok, maybe he is a better option that Brad Childress or Leslie Frazier but that’s not setting the bar that high.

  40. Very hard to believe, this would be dumb on so many levels for the niners. He damn near won a super bowl a year ago if ravens had been called for PI and almost made it this year as well. I’d easily give up a 1st and change for him if I were the browns.

  41. Everything I’ve heard from the Niners says that this is complete bull. I wouldn’t doubt that the Browns might have called and made an offer but there’s no wAy that would have happened. Even for the Browns 2 1st round picks. Like someone above me said remember the hiring of Erickson? The worst signing in team history. Jed York Sr. had no clue what he was doing. Now Nolan I think was not a bad hire for us. He built the foundation for the defense we have today. It’s an insult to even name Nolan with that reject Erickson. Singletary was a good Defense/LB coach, but he just wasn’t ready for a head spot. But he’s the one that got Vernon Davis’ head on straight, after he sent him off the field during a game. “CAN’T PLAY WITH THEM, CAN’T WIN WITH THEM, CAN’T DO IT!”

  42. Crazy. Crazy. Crazy. As a 49er homer who’s absolutely thrilled with the football gods for blessing my team with Coach Harbaugh, I don’t want to think about the possibility of him leaving… buuuuuuut, the really scary question for me and probably for other fans of the team is: if/when he inevitably leaves, who would we have replace him? I sure as hell don’t want to go back to the dark ages (Erickson/Nolan/Singletary)… maybe this will be the job that lures old lantern-jaw (Coach Cowher) out of psuedo-retirement. Hey, a guy can hope, right?

  43. BOY…Harbaugh must be even crazier than the general stories and anecdotes regarding his behavior are. On the surface, he clearly is an excellent coach and has the records to prove this. It makes NO sense to send him to another team for draft picks, regardless how high, unless he is COMPLETELY impossible to have within an organization in areas having to do with working cooperatively with others etc. Given the history of mediocre results (measured by the DECADE) post-Shula in Miami alone, one would think that clubs would hold fast to highly successful coaches with hoops of steel. Draft picks are potential. Long track records of coaching success are RESULTS carved in stone. It’s results that put groceries in the fridge, NOT potential.

  44. The Browns is the best HCing Job in football. They have fans everywhere..a huge fanbase. Whoever turns that team around is going to be worshipped like a football god.

    I don’t know why The Browns will do it though. John Harbaugh owns Jim. That’s 2 automatic L’s a year from the Ravens.

  45. Unless Harbaugh had a ‘no trade’ clause in his contract, why would he need to approve the deal, unless the 9er asked out of courtesy.

    Additionally, if the 9ers seriously entertained this offer, which it seems they did, that would mean that they’re not truly happy with Harbaugh, despite all the success they’ve had with him.

    That seems Strange.

  46. It cannot have been to trade Harbaugh, it was for the rights to make him an offer and end his contract, you cannot trade a coach.
    So it must have been billions and full control for Harbaugh, then he has to make a team with no first rounds till 2020.
    Why would SF not do this? A good coach could do well with that team, especially if the older roster is getting refreshed with double first rounders for a while.
    But only greed would compel Harbaugh to do such a thing, the deal itself would almost preclude him being successfull. That is one of the great things about the current 9rs, how many of their stars they drafted.

  47. God i wish this would of happened so ole Jimbo could be exposed for the fraud he is.

    He wouldnt be takeing over a team with pro bowlers all over a already built O and D lines.

    he would have to actually build the team himself and he would fail badly.

  48. One thing nobody has mentioned yet is that the trade wasn’t just for Harbaugh…you never see just the HC go to a different team. Most of the niner’s coaching staff would likely move to Cleveland as well.

    And the niner’s owner and GM knows that is what would have happened.

    So the bigger questions are:
    – why would they gamble and blow up their entire coaching staff after three successful seasons?
    – who was the hopeful successor and staff that would have replaced Harbaugh and his guys? They must have had somebody in mind already if they truly did try to make this deal happen.

    One conspiracy theory might be they wanted to jettison some of the higher-paid players, not sign Kaepernick to an extended deal and get a “pocket passer”, go young and save money to build and compete at a later time. And have a coach who just does what they tell him to do.

    Just a thought…

  49. Wow, how lost is Cleveland ?? Is there most recent no-name hire on the hot seat already ? Did he not get Ms Haslum’s coffee quick enough…..Factory of Sadness !

  50. Get rid of Baalke and keep Harbaugh. The two most important people on a team besides the owner are the coach and QB. Give Harbaugh what he wants. The results speak for themselves and the guy has earned whatever he wants.

  51. Baalke is now in the mode of trying to weaken the niners. He has positioned himself to take over for Ted Thompson when he retires. Baalke doesn’t want to make the Niners into a dynasty that he won’t be able to defeat when he is running the packers in 3 years.

  52. What it really means: the Niners are not confident they can sign him to an extension, and Harbaugh is asking for the moon.
    It’s interesting that it was Harbaugh who nixed the deal. Maybe he thinks if he has one more really good season he will get what he wants ($$$). The Browns remind me of the 2011 Niners that Harbs inherited: good defense, but the offense is a mess.

  53. I think the Seahawks and Cardinals would have each thrown in a fifth rounder to help make this happen.

  54. Now we are hearing his wife didn’t want to move to Cleveland.

    This is the only part of the entire story that no one will refute…and makes the most sense.

  55. I hope that people on here saying that the Browns should have made the “trade” understand that you can’t just “trade” for coaches. It has to start with the coach agreeing to move. You can’t force a coach to switch teams.

  56. i thought back in 2003 after the gruden trade the league no longer allowed this to happen…when did that change?

  57. 49ers had a ready built team and a history of playoffs and Super Bowls. A virtual dream team.
    Cleveland? Well…..they did have Jim Brown in the 60s.

  58. in about one hour we are going to hear how this report was untrue. then it may have been true. then it wasn’t true. then it will be kind of untrue and true.

    welcome to sports media. sports media have modified Nike’s motto Just Do it to JUST PRINT IT!

  59. I bet he would have been a success in Cleveland, dysfunctional or not. Remember how the 49ers were stacked with talent but still couldn’t do anything under Singletary? Remember how Alex Smith was this close to being a complete bust until Harbaugh and Co. came to town and coached him up? The Browns are not THAT far from being a good team.

  60. So the whipping Harbaugh took from the Seahawks had him wanting to run away? Classic Harbaugh. As long as Harbaugh was the big dog in the division that was fine but when his arch rival bests his butt and wins the championship he coveted so bad, he wants to tuck tail and run. Classic Harbaugh.

  61. “Per multiple league sources….”

    “The Browns declined to comment specifically on whether an effort was made to acquire Jim Harbaugh. ”

    Who exactly are these sources?

    Did April 1st come early this year?

  62. Maybe Cleveland wanted him because the idea of his simple khaki pants matches their uniforms and helmet logos. BLAND!

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