Jim Harbaugh was supposedly very close to becoming the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately for Browns fans, if the deal was ever in the works, it apparently fell through. Harbaugh has recently claimed that the report was not even true.
Cleveland’s coaching search, like its franchise history, was a bit rocky. Multiple potential coaches dropped out of the running before the Browns eventually settled on Mike Pettine as the new head coach. It has been speculated that the withdrawals were due to the nature of the Browns head coaching job. Cleveland is obviously not an easy place to win, but the opportunity is there for a coach to make a name for himself by turning an ailing program around.
Cleveland has not, as yet, denied the report that Harbaugh was almost sent there in exchange for draft picks. How this trade would have worked out for Cleveland is hard to say. Harbaugh has certainly proven himself to be an excellent coach, having already taken the 49ers to one Super Bowl appearance, albeit in a losing effort. He has also led San Francisco to the NFC Title Game multiple times.
However, Cleveland would have likely had to give up quite a bit in order to obtain Harbaugh. The original report was that the Browns would have had to give up draft picks in the trade, although exactly how many or from what rounds was not specified. Most likely, the Browns would have been required to pay a hefty price in the draft if this deal had become reality.
For a team that has been struggling to build a solid foundation, giving up draft picks would have been very risky. After all, the game is ultimately decided on the field. Whether Harbaugh’s leadership would have been worth the risk is tough to say, but he certainly has a stellar track record.
Harbaugh and 49ers CEO have both recently claimed that the reports are untrue. They might well be telling the truth, but it would certainly not be the first time a coach has been less than honest about his back-room negotiations.
If nothing else, the rumors have gotten people talking about what might have been. Had Harbaugh actually gone to Cleveland, he and his brother John would have been coaching in the same division. The games between Cleveland and John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens would have had a little extra meaning. It would also have been interesting to see if Harbaugh was the coach to finally turn Cleveland around. Sadly, it seems that those scenarios will play out only in imagination.
It might be better for both teams that the alleged trade never came about. The 49ers already have a solid foundation to build upon, but losing a coach of Harbaugh’s magnitude might have sent them into decline. On the other hand, the Browns would have likely been risking a lot in order to get a new coach. The potential rewards might have been great for both teams, but the risks were also high.
Harbaugh has claimed the trade rumors were untrue and there really is no reason to not take him at his word. Rumors are all one has to go on at this point. However, it should be interesting to see if the reports will affect Harbaugh’s relationship with San Francisco going forward.
Editorial By Zach Kirkman