Jim Harbaugh Trade Rumor Points to Potential Unrest in 49ers Organization

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystFebruary 22, 2014

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh answers a question during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Since Jim Harbaugh became the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, there hasn't been a more successful franchise in the NFL.

Save one small problem. Three NFC Championship Games. Zero Super Bowl rings.

That small problem may be mushrooming, causing other problems and creating friction that could do serious damage to the team's chances of winning its sixth Super Bowl in franchise history.

The NFL was shocked Friday by a report by Pro Football Talk claiming that Harbaugh very nearly wasn't the head coach in San Francisco anymore.

In fact, Mike Florio claims league sources informed him the 50-year-old was almost traded.

"A deal that would have sent multiple draft picks to San Francisco was in place between the teams," Florio wrote, "but Harbaugh ultimately decided not to leave the 49ers."

The veracity of Florio's claims were quickly challenged by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:

49ers CEO Jed York, on the other hand, issued a flat-out denial:

The Browns, meanwhile, said nothing, according to ESPNCleveland.com's Tony Grossi:

One Cleveland radio host, however, not only claimed the report was true, but also said that it was Harbaugh who originally reached out:

Whoa whoa whoa.

Before the hypewagon hits hyperspeed, let's just throw things in park and take a breath.

For starters, we have two sides proclaiming with equal vehemence that the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns either were or were not engaged in talks that would have sent Harbaugh to Cleveland in exchange for draft picks.

These talks that may or may not have happened either were or weren't near fruition.

Think what you may of Florio, but it's highly unlikely that he made this story up from whole cloth. On some level, there was probably contact between the teams regarding the coach.

After all, as Grossi points out, Lombardi and Harbaugh go back:

On its face, though, it still seems laughable.

Why would a San Francisco team that's been to three straight NFC title games trade its aggressive and well-respected head coach? Why would Harbaugh leave San Francisco for, of all places, Cleveland?

Unless things in San Francisco aren't going as well as we think.

As Bill Williamson of ESPN reports, Harbaugh, whose contract with the team runs through 2015, has been in the process of negotiating an extension with the 49ers.

Harbaugh reportedly wants to be among the league's highest-paid head coaches. The 49ers, on the other hand, want Harbaugh to become a Super Bowl winner before they pay him like one.

If both sides are dug in and no progress is being made at all, then perhaps, just for a moment, the 49ers considered a huge pile of draft picks now as opposed to getting nothing a couple of years down the road.

Or maybe, just for a second, Harbaugh daydreamed about a legion of dump trucks filled with money leading back to his home state of Ohio.

Then he saw the Browns' roster, the dream became a nightmare and that was that.

Things may not have come as close to fruition as Florio's sources implied, but the very fact that such talk exists on any level should serve as a wake-up call to both Harbaugh and the 49ers.

A deal needs to get done, and soon. Whatever animosity there is between Harbaugh, his camp (who could also have leaked this news in an effort to egg talks along) and the Niners needs to be put aside.

Now is the time to be evaluating prospects and preparing for free agency and the draft. Not for answering questions about who did or didn't say what to who.

It just doesn't make any sense for Harbaugh to be coaching anywhere other than that shiny new stadium in Santa Clara. The team and coach fit hand in glove.

The 49ers are one of the most talented teams in the league. Yes, the last three seasons have ended with the added disappointment of having come so close, but that's nothing compared to never getting close to begin with.

Like in Cleveland.

With that said, the 49ers are also in the toughest division in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks just won the Super Bowl, and the Arizona Cardinals won 10 games in 2013.

There isn't much margin for error, which leaves even less time for nonsense.

Like, say, the sort of distractions that come with endless speculation about the head coach's future with the team.

The San Francisco 49ers are primed for a run at Super Bowl XLIX, and the last thing the team needs is this sort of unnecessary distraction hanging over it all season long.

There are plenty of necessary ones...like the Seahawks.



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