It's been a wild afternoon with Pro Football Talk reporting that the Cleveland Browns almost pulled off a trade for San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. There has been an eruption on all sides of this, with PFT's Mike Florio getting in a pissing contest with NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Rapoport reported that 49ers sources said it was false and ridiculous. Florio told Rapoport that his source was lying or misinformed. Rapoport said it was two sources, and Florio responded with an article in which he said NFL Network is more or less partially owned by the 49ers, so that tweet was basically a press release. Classy stuff from Florio.
Well, now Jed York has weighed in to deny Pro Football Talk's report.
You can't do much more than that to lay the boom on PFT. This has become more of an issue because the Browns released this statement:
"The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options. That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we're excited about his future with the club."
This is not a denial, and it only added to the earlier nonsense. However, both these responses can be true. TheFreakSF was watching ESPN, and Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen had some comments on the issue:
Mortensen: "The Browns went through a phase where they tried to think outside the box, and one of the out of the box ideas was 'can we get Jim Harbaugh?' who's in contract extension talks with the 49ers. So yes, they certainly had those type of discussions internally about 'can we go get Harbaugh' and the answer was no"
Schefter: "One of the reasons was that the Browns were Harbaugh's team growing up so they thought that would be an attractive option, but I remember speaking to two different Browns officials who didn't even know if they could actually trade for him, wondering if the league would allow it... I know what Pro Football Talk's report is and I don't doubt it, but the way I understood it was that it was something that was discussed, but it never developed very far."
So yes, the Browns very well could have looked into this. Jed denied the PFT report, but obviously some parts of it could be true. The Browns could have been looking at this internally, and someone slipped some info out that it was more than that. We'll never know every single detail, but what we do know is the 49ers and Jim Harbaugh are going to be discussing a new contract this offseason, if they have not already begun. We discussed this quite a bit during the whole University of Texas thing. There is a dance when it comes to high stakes negotiations like this.
Jim Harbaugh is likely looking to become one of the highest paid coaches in the NFL, and it's possible some kind of personnel power interests him. There are a lot of moving parts in this kid of negotiation, which means things can swing every which way. I don't think Florio made something up entirely out of nothing with this report, but I imagine he took something and then stretched it out to make it that much bigger of a deal. We know there have been reports of some tension between Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke. It doesn't mean there will be a split, but creative tension is going to exist when you have two Type-A personalities.
And so for now we are simply left to wait. The contract negotiation dance will continue. Until a deal gets done, we have to be somewhat on guard about the potential for more random rumors like this. It will be a moderately annoying process, but something we have to deal with in the coming days, weeks, and months.