Report: Browns almost traded for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh was almost the coach of the Browns. (USATSI)
Jim Harbaugh was almost the coach of the Browns. (USATSI)

The Cleveland Browns had one of the wildest coaching searches in recent memory this year, not only were candidates turning down the job, but apparently, Cleveland tried to trade for a new coach. According to, the Browns and 49ers had a deal in place that would've sent Jim Harbaugh to Cleveland for draft picks. 

The Browns would've gotten Harbaugh and in return, the 49ers would have received multiple draft picks from Cleveland. Apparently the deal was in place and going to happen, but in the end, Harbaugh decided not to leave and the Browns went on to hire Mike Pettine. 

Cleveland didn't exactly deny the report in a statement, "The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options," the team said. "That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we're excited about his future with the club."

The 49ers went the opposite route and denied the report to Two sources told the league's website that the report that Harbaugh was almost traded is 'completely false and ridiculous.' 

Forty-Niners CEO Jed York also denied that there were any trade talks. So the 49ers are denying it outright, but the Browns aren't.  

This trade would have been intriguing for several reasons. First, Harbaugh would have been sent to the AFC North which means we'd have two Har-Bowls a year between Jim and his brother, Ravens coach John Harbaugh. 

Second, this could possibly mean that the 49ers would be willing to let Harbaugh leave if his demands get too ridiculous in upcoming contract negotiations. Harbaugh just finished the third-year of a five-year deal that he signed in 2011. The contract is paying Harbaugh $5 million a year and no matter where he ends up after the contract, you can bet he'll be making more money. 

A coach being traded for draft picks isn't completely ridiculous. The Boston Celtics sent Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers in June for a valuable 2015 first-round pick. 

The last NFL trade involving a coach came in 2002 when the Raiders sent Jon Gruden to the Buccaneers for Tampa Bay's 2002 and 2003 first-round draft picks. The Raiders also received two second-round picks and cash in the deal. 

In 2006, Herm Edwards was kind of traded to Kansas City. The Jets agreed to let Edwards out of his contract in exchange for a fourth-round pick from the Chiefs. New York got the pick and Edwards ended up signing on as Kansas City's coach. 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was also involved in a trade. In January 2000, the Jets hired Belichick, a coach the Patriots wanted. New England owner Robert Kraft then agreed to send the Patriots 2000 first-round pick to the Jets, in exchange, New York released Belichick from his contract, according to a Jan. 28, 2000 story in the New York Times. The Jets also received the Patriots fourth- and seventh-round picks in 2001. 

The Belichick trade was the second time in three years the two teams were involved in a coaching trade that involved Belichick. In 1997, the Jets wanted Bill Parcells, but Parcells was under contract with the Patriots. To get around that, the Jets hired Parcells' top assistant as head coach and brought on Parcells in an advisory role. That assistant the Jets hired? Bill Belichick. 

The Patriots weren't happy about that Parcells was in New York, so NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue ended up brokering a deal. In the end, Parcells ended up as the Jets head coach, Belichick ended up as an assistant and the Patriots received the Jets first-round draft pick in 1999, a second-round pick in 1998 and New York's third- and fourth-round picks in 1997.

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
CBS Sports Store
NFL Cold Weather Gear
Our Latest Stories