San Francisco 49ers sources deny that they had a trade in place to send Jim Harbaugh to the Cleveland Browns, according to a report.
On Friday, Pro Football Talk reported that the Browns nearly pulled off a trade for Harbaugh that would have seen the team send San Francisco multiple draft picks in exchange for the coach. Mike Florio said the deal was in place but Harbaugh decided not to leave the team.
In response to the report, a Browns PR spokesman sent out this statement, which is vague and does not deny an attempt to lure Harbaugh.
“That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we’re excited about his future with the club. The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options.”
However, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted the following, which shows he received a strong denial.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 21, 2014
Rapoport later said he received denials from two 49ers sources.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen added some more context and background to the story.
The two reporters said on “NFL Live” that after firing Rob Chudzinski, the Browns started to think outside the box for their next hire. That led them to explore the possibility of trading for Harbaugh, whose favorite team growing up supposedly was the Cleveland Browns. They said it was a scenario that was discussed but never went very far and that the team didn’t even know if the commissioner would approve such a trade.
I can believe that the Browns explored this possibility, but I’m guessing PFT characterizing the deal as being close and “nearly” happening is a stretch.
Think about it: why wouldn’t the Browns want Harbaugh? Knowing that Harbaugh hadn’t signed an extension with San Francisco, they probably figured it was an option worth exploring.