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Monday, February 24, 2014
Sifting through the Jim Harbaugh reports

By Pat McManamon

There’s a lot of floating pieces and parts to the report that the Cleveland Browns tried to trade for San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

For the Browns, the picture is of a team that went to great lengths to hire a top-caliber head coach. It explains some of their guarded remarks when they said things as the search went on, like they knew a candidate or two was in the playoffs, and that the media really had no idea who was a candidate.

This could be why owner Jimmy Haslam, who initially declined to go beyond the Browns' statement that very cleverly did not deny the story, told USA Today on Sunday that, “There was an opportunity there and it didn’t materialize.”

That this became public doesn’t help Mike Pettine a lot, but he knew when he took the job he’d need an iron spine, given all that's happened in Cleveland the past few years. This forges it a little stronger.

And it also does not mean Pettine won’t be a good coach and isn’t liked in Berea. It's just that the way this leaked makes it tough.

For the 49ers, the image of even considering trading a coach who has been to three NFC championships has to be troubling -- to fans and players. Trade a winning coach? A guy who nearly won the Super Bowl?

This is why the 49ers are falling over themselves to deny it. First, owner Jed York tweeted the report was “not true.” Monday, the Sacramento Bee provided more from York, who said the Browns made an offer that was quickly rejected.

“We had no interest in entering those discussions,” York told Matt Barrows.

York said he initially denied the Pro Football Talk report because the entirety of the story was not true. That story reported a deal was close until Harbaugh backed out. York said he rebuffed the deal immediately.

The offer apparently came from then-CEO Joe Banner, who followed a conversation asking about Greg Roman and Jim Tomsula by asking about Harbaugh, the Bee reported.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter said a first-round draft pick was not part of the Browns' offer, which sounds absurd given Tampa Bay gave up two 1s and two 2s in the draft for Jon Gruden. Harbaugh is worth less?

If no first-round pick was offered, then the conversations were laughable. It’s tough to believe that the Browns would be serious about Harbaugh and not make a serious offer.

The bottom line: The Browns investigated something they thought was a possibility. The 49ers listened and said thanks but no thanks.

On to the draft.