Yes, folks, the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers did indeed engage in discussions about Jim Harbaugh.
We now know this with certainty because Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has confirmed the existence of discussions with between his team and the 49ers.
“There was an opportunity there, and it didn’t materialize,” Haslam told Jarrett Bell of USA Today. Haslam did not address why the opportunity didn’t result in a transaction.
Haslam’s use of the term “opportunity” is a far cry from the 49ers’ initial characterization (via off-the-record quotes leaked to NFL Media) that the report of a possible trade of Harbaugh to the Browns was “completely false” and “ridiculous.” Haslam’s choice of words also cuts against the notion that the Browns made an inquiry about acquiring Harbaugh and the 49ers immediately and flatly said no.
It’s no surprise, given the Browns’ initial on-the-record response to the report. The Browns did not deny — and have not denied — any aspect of the report.
It’s possible that a sitcom-style misunderstanding arose between the Browns and 49ers regarding Cleveland’s interest in Harbaugh. It’s also possible, if not likely, that the 49ers are now saying what they have to say in order to avoid a full-blown implosion of the increasingly awkward relationship between Harbaugh and the organization, including most specifically G.M. Trent Baalke, with whom Harbaugh must find a way to work closely and cooperatively.