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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    The Whiners/Harbaugh Drama Thread

    Sources: Browns nearly traded with ***** for Jim Harbaugh
    Posted by Mike Florio on February 21, 2014, 4:28 PM EST

    The Browns’ unpredictable head-coaching search nearly finished with what would have been the most unpredictable outcome of any head-coaching search since Jon Gruden was traded from the Raiders to the Buccaneers a dozen years ago.

    Per multiple league sources, the Cleveland Browns nearly pulled off a trade with the ***** for the rights to coach Jim Harbaugh.

    A deal that would have sent multiple draft picks to San Francisco was in place between the teams. But Harbaugh ultimately decided not to leave the *****.

    The ***** could not immediately be reached for comment. Efforts to contact the ***** continue.

    The Browns declined to comment specifically on whether an effort was made to acquire Jim Harbaugh. The Browns characterized the search as thorough, and the Browns acknowledged that many options were considered. The Browns emphasized that the team is excited about its new coach Mike Pettine.

    A deal would have been stunning, for several reasons. Harbaugh has taken the ***** to the NFC title game in each of his three years with the team. Also, he would have joined the same division as his brother, Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

    Which means they would have been squaring off at least twice per year, and competing directly for division titles and/or wild-card positioning.

  2. #2
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    Re: Sources: Browns nearly traded with ***** for Jim Harbaugh

    So happy it didn't go through. I feel like the GM-HC misfire is going to get pretty ugly with it ending with Harbaugh hitting the curb.

    Imagine the haul they would have received for Harbaugh? The Oakland Raiders traded 2002 and 2003 1st round picks, and 2002 and 2004 2nd round picks + 8 million cash for Jon Gruden...

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    Re: Sources: Browns nearly traded with ***** for Jim Harbaugh

    I don't buy this at all. If anything the Browns probably made up and leaked this story to feel better about themselves.

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    Re: Sources: Browns nearly traded with ***** for Jim Harbaugh

    How did the *****/Harbaugh-almost-but-not-really-to-Cleveland scenario happen? My most plausible 9-step thesis, and what it means
    Posted on February 22, 2014 by Tim Kawakami

    If you just don’t want to believe any part of PFT’s blockbuster report yesterday that the Cleveland Browns recently had a deal in place to acquire Jim Harbaugh from the ***** before it collapsed… that there is nothing here to examine at all…

    That’s your call and it’s an understandable call.

    “Report isn’t true,” ***** owner Jed York said on Twitter in response to a back-and-forth between PFT’s Mike Florio and the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport after Rapoport quickly knocked down Florio’s report with two unnamed ***** sources.

    Later, Harbaugh sent this text-message to ESPN’s Ed Werder, BANG’s Cam Inman and CSN Bay Area’s Dave Feldman: ”I echo Jed York’s comment– isn’t true…. I know nothing about a trade with the Cleveland Browns and us, involving me.”

    Then when Inman reached him by phone in Indianapolis and asked directly whether he nixed the deal, Harbaugh reiterated the “isn’t true” comment.

    (Just great work by Cam–getting a hold of Harbaugh via text and phone on this night? Tremendous. A++ reporting, to use a familiar ***** evaluation system.)


    Oh, and Harbaugh told Matt Maiocco that the story was “ridiculous” this morning on his way to the combine workouts.

    If that does it for you, and you believe this all meant nothing in the larger ***** firmament and management structure of York, Trent Baalke and Harbaugh… and that everything is wonderful between them and there are no potential pitfalls ahead…

    And that Harbaugh is destined to coach the ***** for a long time… that’s certainly one way to interpret this.

    If you believe that and feel that York and Harbaugh’s combined denials shut this down 1,000% then don’t read the rest of this item. Yes, the terse denials (and the fact that the report was about something that didn’t happen, anyway) do publicly shut down the more fanciful parts of this.

    –Most fanciful: Harbaugh to Cleveland of all places? With no QB and having to give up top choices to get Harbaugh? To the same division as his brother? SARAH Harbaugh to Cleveland?

    But the denials don’t shut it all down when you look at the larger Harbaugh/***** picture, in my view. This is all just the start of things in this one, not the end.

    So don’t read this any more if you want a 1,000% shutdown.

    If you choose to read on, please take into account that we’re assuming all of the principals involved here are and were operating within the margins of plausible, tightly-constructed deniability in all Harbaugh/Cleveland/***** tacit discussions.

    Which is fair play by the principals involved; I’m not suggesting this is anything other than normal off-season NFL/big-time coach/agent/executive Sun-Tzu-inspired back-and-forth and once the back-and-forth gets out into public view a little bit, nobody has any need to admit to it if things fall apart.

    This happens all the time, it doesn’t get out all of the time (or it gets out much later) and I would caution ***** fans and mostly Harbaugh fans that there are a great many of these instances/conversations/plausible denials to come.

    Larger point: I know some ***** fans–or mostly Harbaugh fans–don’t want to hear this, but the reality is that Harbaugh is a combustible commodity who has ***** HQ very unsettled most days and now he’s coming up on a contract extension that he really thought he deserved last year, so things are a little pent-up between coach and management.

    As always, it’s stipulated that Harbaugh is a great coach, but he has never been known as a soothing, pleasant personality and he has never claimed to be.

    He wins, and he also wears on people. Three years of winning with the *****, three years of wearing people down. Just ask the people at Stanford how they felt about him after four years there.

    Harbaugh might say the same about Baalke, who also isn’t the sweetest of personalities. The two alpha-types are extremely good at what they do–Baalke finds the talent, Harbaugh coaches it–and they’ve been very good for each other… up until they moment when they decide that they’re very much not.

    And yes, I reported back in December that there was growing tension between Harbaugh and Baalke. That got a lot of ***** fans angry, and oh well. It’s true.

    At the end of the season, I heard that the two men–while definitely a lot chillier than they were when they were running hills together in 2011–were getting along just a bit better.

    But there is this contract extension that Harbaugh wants, and he wants a Large One. As in: The largest one.

    York, to this point, has happily paid Harbaugh $5M a year and probably would up that to $6.5M (into the top 5-10 or so), but does not want to make Harbaugh the top-paid coach in the league until he wins a Super Bowl and that has not yet happened, despite three straight trips to the NFC title game.

    So Harbaugh and his agent David Dunn are going to do what they can to pressure the ***** to getting that deal, or to eventually finding a place that will give him maybe an even larger deal. The ***** will presumably push back.
    All fair, by both sides.

    It’s NEGOTIATIONS, and both sides know that they pretty much have to get the deal done this off-season or else Harbaugh’s ***** tenure will be moving towards an end period.

    That’s what caused the weirdness of yesterday and there will be more, I predict, up until the moment a new deal is signed or the ***** and Harbaugh decide there’s just no way to get a deal done.

    And then there will be even more weirdness.

    What follows are my best presumptions about how this could’ve all unfolded, fitting the larger points of the PFT story, the clipped denials by York and Harbaugh, and what I know about the general personalities and background involved.

    Again: I am not reporting that this is how it happened, not at all. I am postulating the most reasonable way, in my opinion, that it might’ve and could’ve occurred, within the constructs of what we know.


    * Presumption 1: Sometime after the *****’ NFC title-game loss in Seattle, Cleveland GM Mike Lombardi could have called Harbaugh for permission to talk to Greg Roman, Vic Fangio and/or Jim Tomsula for the Browns’ new head-coach vacancy.

    The person who’d pick up that phone call to Harbaugh’s office? Hey, it could possibly have been Lombardi’s son, Mick, who is currently the assistant to the ***** head coach. Hmm, probably not that tough for any Lombardi family member to find a working Harbaugh cellphone number, either, I’d assume.

    Also not tricky for Mike Lombardi to already have an idea about how Harbaugh was feeling about ***** management.

    * Presumption 2: Harbaugh, long-time pals with Lombardi back to their Raiders days, probably would highly recommend Roman-Fangio-Tomsula, but it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to also conveniently let Lombardi know that he hasn’t been thrilled with the pace of his own extension negotiations and that he and Baalke aren’t so chummy lately.

    Lombardi could’ve stayed away from outright tampering (you’d hope), but maybe he sounded out Harbaugh about his interest in, say, the merits of living in Ohio and variations on the color brown, and heard a non-negative response.

    Harbaugh has lived and coached in many places and he lays claim to many “home” areas, the Midwest being one of them. I don’t think he yearns to get back there because he’s had plenty of chances to go back and hasn’t, but he can certainly claim the Midwest as an essential part of his background.

    * Presumption 3: Maybe then Lombardi shot a call to Harbaugh’s agent Dunn, who hypothetically did not hang up the phone when Lombardi wondered if Harbaugh could be ready for a change of scenery… if it’s for $10M a year to be back with his old pal.

    I would guess that Lombardi and the Browns knew it was a long shot no matter what, but if Harbaugh and Dunn were interested enough, why not goose the ***** by seeing if they could pull this off–and at the worst, Lombardi would be handing his friend even more leveage in the ***** negotiations.

    * Presumption 4: From there, Lombardi could’ve gone to his team president Joe Banner and desperate owner Jimmy Haslam, cited his friendship with Harbaugh, and the Browns maybe started coming up with a plausible trade offer for a game-changing move.

    Harbaugh in Cleveland? That’d be something to sell some tickets and get the fan base stirring. Even in the large likelihood that it didn’t happen, it was a home-run swing that could make Browns fans realize Haslam was at least trying.

    * Presumption 5: Through the process, we can guess that neither Harbaugh nor his agent pushed away the Browns’ general interest (without tampering of course!), if for nothing else to let the ***** know that he has options.

    Like he implicitly did with the University of Texas’ off-book interest in December (and also USC’s quiet interest–which, I’ve heard, is the one that really got the ***** churning), Harbaugh and his agent have never minded letting the ***** know they have options.

    * Presumption 6: Baalke and York, already having gone through the Texas/USC thing, could’ve taken the Browns’ call and perhaps coolly spoke hypothetically about what they might want in return for the rights to Harbaugh.

    This wouldn’t mean they were leaping to dump Harbaugh or that they were seriously ready to trade him away; but it might’ve meant that they at least wanted to let Harbaugh know that they have options, too, and if he wanted out, they were not going to swoon in panic, basically.

    That’s what York did with Texas and USC: In December, York asked Harbaugh directly if he wanted to stay or go and if he wanted to go, the ***** would let him go. Back then, Harbaugh said he wanted to stay. That was just as the ***** were about to enter the playoffs, remember.

    York long ago tipped his hand that if it’s a choice between Harbaugh or Baalke, he’s leaning to Baalke, who is signed through 2016 and has full control of the roster.

    * Presumption 7: I believe strongly that the ***** did not want Harbaugh to go, but York and Baalke were determined not to let Harbaugh push them on this, so the ***** once again ticked through a replacement short list. You know, just in case.

    The hypothetical options: Elevate Roman, Fangio or Tomsula (or maybe special teams coach Brad Seeley) or see if an available top veteran coach would be intrigued by this opportunity.

    Or give Stanford’s David Shaw a call, just to check. Everybody goes through these short lists (if you’re smart), and if you have Jim Harbaugh as your coach, you have to do it all the time.

    At some point I’ll probably run through these options in greater detail, but not now, because I think there will be a time when the ***** go through it more seriously.

    I don’t think York and Baalke needed to go through it that deeply this time because…

    * Presumption 8: At some moment right before the point of no return, when the ***** had to decide whether they wanted to actually consider that Harbaugh wanted to leave the ***** and coach the Browns, York probably had to go to Harbaugh again and ask: Do you want us to keep going down this road?

    It’s similar to what happened with the Texas scuttlebutt. If you know your coach is high maintenance, you know these things will keep happening and you play it out.

    The final play each time: Ask Harbaugh if he wants out and if he wants out, then fine.

    * Presumption 9: And at that point, either Harbaugh or York or both probably stepped back and said, you know, let’s stop this right here. Walk it back into reality. It’s just not realistic for the ***** to want to move on or for Harbaugh to want to jump ship. Not now.

    And that was the end of it, for now, except there’s never and end to something like this; and then somebody, probably from the Cleveland or Lombardi side started talking about it, which is presumably how this story got out.

    Let’s circle back and summarize some things, OK?


    –Harbaugh is still the ***** coach, still with two years on his contract and almost certainly still very much wanting a new extension with a very high salary.

    –The ***** still are very talented and still are starving for a Super Bowl; their best option is to have Harbaugh coaching them towards that.

    –Lombardi and Banner hired Mike Pettine as the new Cleveland coach on Jan. 23, so any presumptive talks with Harbaugh had to have taken place before that.

    –Lombardi and Banner were fired on Feb. 11. Ray Farmer was hired as GM.


    –Other than the idea of a new start, which I get, why would Harbaugh truly want to jump from a team as loaded as the *****–and with a locker room atmosphere he admits was great even before he got here–to go to Cleveland, which has no QB… and which would also presumably be giving up at least a high #1 pick and probably much more… which would make it much tougher to actually get a QB?

    I don’t think he seriously would. Harbaugh is very, very, very smart, so is Dunn, and Harbaugh wants to win Super Bowls, not lose a lot of games while trying to figure out what the hell to do at QB.

    Would he entertain the thought? Sure. But he entertains a lot of thoughts. That’s called strategy.

    If Harbaugh’s going to try to jump, I think it’s going to be to a team a lot better situated and run than the Browns. I’ve never heard the Browns mentioned before as a potential landing spot for Harbaugh, and believe me, I’ve heard a lot of teams suggested.

    A few of the teams I’ve heard, just in casual conversation: Dallas (owner who’d pay anything to win), Chicago (Harbaugh played there, huge market), Detroit (Michigan ties), NY Giants or Jets (biggest market), San Diego (SD ties) and yes, the Raiders.
    Cleveland of course had the Lombardi tie, and that’s how it got going, but that’s it, and look what happened to Lombardi.

    Back to the larger *****/Harbaugh picture…

    Does any of this hurt the relationship between high-strung coach and Super Bowl-starving management? No, I don’t think so.

    If you presume this would create mistrust between the two sides, well, that assumes Harbaugh and ***** management were great cuddly frat buddies beforehand and, as I’ve said, that just isn’t the case.

    This is a tense situation. York created it by hiring Harbaugh and Baalke in the first place. And York isn’t beyond some tension-play, either.

    It didn’t just get tense because of a Cleveland dalliance, however serious anybody really was (other than Cleveland, I’m sure).

    Negotiations continue. Both sides are playing big-time poker, throwing out some bluffs and putting some chips on the table, and we have a long off-season ahead of all of us.

    Maybe ***** management and Harbaugh aren’t in love any more, but they can obviously work together. That’s how this has operated for the last year or so, anyway. Sometimes it’s easy, but this relationship is not fated to be easy, which York knew from the get go.

    Hey, remember who the other finalist was when York hired Baalke as GM in 2011? Yeah, it was Mike Lombardi. Why? Because Lombardi was so close to Harbaugh.

    This is how things go in the higher levels of the NFL and you’d rather have this stuff happen than to be irrelevant.

    And at least ***** fans don’t have to worry about Harbaugh getting traded to be the coach for Lombardi’s new team–the Patriots.

  5. #5
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    So what you're saying is... Terry Bradshaw isn't dead?

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    Re: Sources: Browns nearly traded with ***** for Jim Harbaugh

    Interesting in context of the Niners longevity - while there are certainly a lot of good coaches that could step in and do well with that team, losing Harbaugh I think would have a lot of psychological ramifications for that team. I assume there wasn't any truth to the rumors, but there seems to be at least something to it. Harbaugh clashing with the front office is nothing if not good for the Rams!

  7. #7
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    Re: Sources: Browns nearly traded with ***** for Jim Harbaugh

    Which is more important? GM or head coach?

    They discussed it on the radio recently and it was an interesting discussion. The consensus was GM and even though I didn't initially agree with it, I'm agreeing with it now.

  8. #8
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    Re: Sources: Browns nearly traded with ***** for Jim Harbaugh

    Harbaugh saga promises to dominate *****' season
    Ann Killion
    Updated 11:33 pm, Saturday, March 1, 2014

    Though the noise has died down, the issue of Jim Harbaugh's future isn't going away.

    More than a week after news broke that the Cleveland Browns had inquired about obtaining him and revelations about his strained relations with general manager Trent Baalke made national headlines, the situation remains intriguing and problematic for the *****.

    Harbaugh's situation will be the backdrop of ***** free agency, which begins on March 11, the May draft and most definitely the inaugural season in Levi's Stadium.

    On one hand, nothing tangible has changed. Harbaugh is still the coach. Baalke is still the general manager. The ***** are still very good. And the tension between Harbaugh and others in the organization is nothing new. As one ***** source told me, "We seem to thrive on chaos and distraction."

    But on the other hand, the friction has gotten worse. And given the events of the past week, it's become public. So there's no pretending that everything is fine.

    And from what I've been told, the tension isn't just upstairs in the building. One source with inside knowledge of the team says that Harbaugh's act has worn thin in the locker room, particularly among some key "face of the *****" type players. While the team is winning, that's not a problem. But a few losses could expose a widening rift.

    The issue isn't how to make the *****' brass more cohesive. Plenty of organizations operate amid chaos and hard feelings. As a ***** source told me, "If Jim and Trent have a beer together, it's not going to make Kap throw the ball 4 inches higher," referring to the final play of the NFC Championship Game.


    No, the issue is who wins the power struggle and how it plays out. The pressure is on ***** CEO Jed York to figure out this tricky negotiation. John Madden recently weighed in on KCBS, saying, "It's a lot easier to get a suit than it is to get a coach." Which is what you'd expect an old football coach to say, and echoes the belief of most ***** fans.

    Will the ***** have to get a new coach? A new suit (shorthand for Baalke)?

    How exactly will this play out?

    There are, I believe, three possible scenarios:

    -- Do nothing about a contract extension and live tensely with Harbaugh for one more year, with an all-or-nothing proposition of winning the Super Bowl in February. If the ***** win the Super Bowl, York and parents will have to reward Harbaugh with the new mega-contract he seeks. And then Harbaugh will have the power to force out Baalke and select his own personnel guy. Or Baalke, seeing the writing on the wall, will choose to leave.

    If the ***** don't win it all, it probably doesn't matter how: either coming tantalizingly close again or having the first non-playoff season of Harbaugh's career. Either scenario will make a tense situation that much worse and make the ***** willing to part ways even with one more year remaining on Harbaugh's contract. Trading him to a desperate team, like Miami or Dallas, would give the ***** something in return.

    -- Come to a contract agreement in the next few months and live tensely with Harbaugh for a few more years. This would depend on Harbaugh's willingness to accept less than top dollar, which the ***** don't want to pay him until he wins a Super Bowl. This would also ensure that Harbaugh is coach for 2015, a season that the ***** would very much like to end by playing a Super Bowl in their own stadium.

    The stadium issue gives Harbaugh leverage because the ***** want a seamless transition to Santa Clara without having their fans turn on them. Losing Harbaugh over money would cause an uproar, especially with the new size XXXL prices at Levi's.

    But the *****' talent gives the organization leverage: Harbaugh desperately wants to win a Super Bowl and his best shot is with this group. Despite his protests to the contrary, Harbaugh knows that teams have windows and that those windows close. The *****' current window is probably going to last only another year or two. But this scenario would require Harbaugh to play nice, which might be impossible.

    -- The final scenario is that Harbaugh re-ups and that he and the ***** live happily ever after.

    This is the most unlikely outcome. While I don't necessarily buy the Harbaugh expiration date theory - that he never stays anywhere more than four years (he was always going to end up in the NFL, so there was no way he was spending his prime coaching years in college) - I also don't believe he's the kind of personality that a team can live with for the long term.

    One ***** source said that even with a new contract for Harbaugh, the team would probably only buy peace for a few weeks before speculation started up again.

    "That's just who Jim is," I was told. "He'd probably like to redo his contract every year, just out of competition."

    That's Harbaugh. He has to win games, press conferences, power struggles, contract negotiations. He's insanely competitive and single-minded.

    And right now, he's certainly plotting how to beat his own organization.

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