The wildest NFL offseason of all time may have almost had the perfect ending.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk reported that the Cleveland Browns attempted a trade with the 49ers for the rights to their head coach Jim Harbaugh, and according to sources, the Browns were close to pulling it off.
Per multiple league sources, the Cleveland Browns nearly pulled off a trade with the 49ers 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 49ers.
Additionally, Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan revealed that a source said Harbaugh expressed interest in the job prior to Mike Pettine's hiring, but the station chose not to report it at the time because they could not obtain confirmation.
The 49ers could not be reached for comment as of the original publishing of Florio's report. However, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network said via Twitter that a Niners source called it "completely false" and "ridiculous."
On the other hand, the Browns released a statement in response and did not deny the report.
"The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options," the team said in the statement. "That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we’re excited about his future with the club."
UPDATE (6:00 PM): A few weeks ago, Joe Lull of 92.3 The Fan told us that there was a second mystery candidate, but that he couldn't reveal it at the time. Lull now confirms that he was referencing Jim Harbaugh at the time, and he revealed several more juicy details:
Harbaugh reached out to the Browns. When they called for permission to interview Roman & Tomsula, Harbaugh expressed interest himself…— Joe Lull (@LullOnSports) February 21, 2014
Harbaugh’s personal assistant in San Francisco? Myck Lombardi, Michael Lombardi’s son. Mike and Jim are close, and Jim has had it w/ Baalke.— Joe Lull (@LullOnSports) February 21, 2014
Why didn’t Harbaugh end up here? Compensation. Would you trade the entire 2014 draft for him?— Joe Lull (@LullOnSports) February 21, 2014
Harbaugh wanted Browns job because A) opportunity to work w/ Lombardi & Banner B) get away from GM he doesn’t like C) roster, picks, cap…— Joe Lull (@LullOnSports) February 21, 2014
UPDATE (6:24 PM): 49ers CEO Jed York, in response to the report by ProFootballTalk, tweeted, "Is this on the record? Report isn't true." Although, it's worth noting that the 49ers are in a position where they have absolutely nothing to gain from confirming the report, but perhaps a lot to lose because it potentially puts the "dysfunctional" label on their organization a little bit.
UPDATE (5:40 AM): ESPN Senior NFL Insider Chris Mortensen confirmed the report last night and said that the talks "reached a serious stage," according to sources.
Browns did indeed make a run at Jim Harbaugh that reached a serious stage, sources confirm substance of @ProFootballTalk report.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) February 22, 2014