A report has surfaced that San Francisco 49ners Head coach Jim Harbuagh was nearly traded to the Cleveland Browns. This comes as a surprise to many, considering that Harbaugh has led the 49ners to three NFC conference championships. The Niners forcefully denied the report that Harbaugh was almost traded has sparked some controversy.
Pro football Talk reporter Mike Florio said the deal “was in place between the teams” but that Harbaugh nixed it. This caused lots of twitter activity amongst the brass of the Niners, the Browns and NFL Network’s reporter Ian Rapoport.
Lots of denials flew through cyberspace for the whole sports world to see. Rapoport issued his own report that refuted the Florio story. But why would Florio just fabricate a story? Why these two teams? Just for the fun of it? It doesn’t seem plausible that a respected journalist would risk his reputation on a known false story. The force by which the Niners are denying the Harbaugh trade, sparks some debate on the validity of the rumors.
This situation speaks to the possibility of Harbaugh being on unsteady ground with the Niners. Even a coach that has helmed the most successful team in the NFL over the last three years can be unwanted. There have been numerous reports around the league that Niners General Manager Trent Baalke and Harbaugh have a rocky relationship. It has to be pretty rocky to trade away the rights to the winningest coach in the game. It is curious that this report comes during the time Harbaugh is looking for an extension on his 5-year, $25 million contract.
Many have said the source of the tension may be over who controls personnel decisions of the team. This is the authority Baalke holds, while many believe Harbaugh wants more of a say. Another possible source of trouble between the two could be Harbaugh’s personality. Many say the coach’s aggressive and relentless make up has rubbed many of the administrators of the 49ners organization the wrong way.
When the Texas Longhorns head-coaching job became available this past December, Harbaugh’s name came up as a possible candidate. The Niners did not break their necks stopping Harbaugh from considering the job.
The Browns issued a half-hearted denial of the trade. It stands to reason that each team would distance themselves from the possible trade given that the Browns have already hired former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine. The last thing the Browns need is further turmoil at their head coaching position. They have had seven head coaches over the last decade.
If the trade had gone through it would have been a shocker. There have been a few instances of coaches being traded in recent years, but none of the magnitude that the Harbaugh, Cleveland trade would have had.
In 2002, the Tampa Bay Bucs signed Jon Gruden away from the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders got two first–round picks, two second round picks and $8 million in cash. The Kansas Chiefs sent head coach Herm Edwards to the Jets in 2006 for a fourth round pick. The success that Harbaugh has achieved with San Francisco would have made that the biggest trade of a coach in NFL history.
The fact that the info was leaked has the teams in spin mode. Now is the time for coaching staffs and organizations to be gearing up for the 2014-2015 season. The last thing the Niners or Browns need is a distraction. Despite the denials and spin, there has to be something to the report that Harbaugh was almost traded because where there are sparks there can be fire.
Editorial by Tony Bowers