Wading through the reports of a Browns trade for Jim Harbaugh

Cleveland Browns headquarters training camp

Cleveland Browns headquarters training camp

Berea, Ohio: Where the fun never stops

Late Friday, the never-ending Cleveland Browns coaching search – which really did end on February 6 when the Browns hired Mike Pettine – got an extension in the news cycle. Pro Football Talk got wind of an apparent trade between the Browns and 49ers for their coach Jim Harbaugh and anonymous sources have been doing battle ever since. But what does all this mean for Browns fans as they get set for an immediate future with Mike Pettine?

First of all, good on the Browns for trying to make something bold happen. Harbaugh is a legitimate coach that is known to make his team better. He had plenty to work with in San Francisco after Mike Singletary’s tenure. The reality is that no team can win in the NFL without comparable or superior talent. The other reality is that some coaches elevate their teams and it appears Harbaugh is one of the guys who is capable of doing that. I do believe the reports that the Browns made a run at Harbaugh and that’s a good thing even if it didn’t work out. But, the trade ended up not occurring.

The reports indicate that, in the end, Jim Harbaugh didn’t want to leave San Francisco. Whether or not it had to do with the amount of compensation leaving Cleveland and heading for the 49ers or whether it was ultimately Harbaugh’s choice not to come work with a Browns organization featuring Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi, the fact is he chose not to come to Cleveland. It’s a “sexy” bit of rumor and reporting, but in the end, this is just another coach who chose not to work in Cleveland.

While I give credit to the Browns for exploring every opportunity, this ends up looking like proof that the Browns job still wasn’t as attractive as it needed to be. Maybe it can be argued that it is more attractive than the job was once thought to be, but not all that much. It introduces a high profile character to the story, but the ending is the same. Faced with the opportunity to come work in Cleveland, Jim Harbaugh chose not to come to Cleveland.

How much of this impacted the fates of Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi? If the Browns had gotten this deal done and Jim Harbaugh had become the Browns coach, what would the front office look like? Would Harbaugh have wanted Lombardi gone so he had more control over personnel? Not likely. Would he have wanted Farmer gone? No reason to think so, but Farmer wouldn’t likely have been promoted. How did he feel about working with Joe Banner? It’s all moot at this point, but it makes me wonder. Also, would Harbaugh have brought Eric Mangini with him? Yes, the last one’s a joke, but considering how the Browns are constructed today and how happy many are with the new setup, would it have been worth it to keep Banner and Lombardi in place to have Harbaugh? I suspect the answer is yes, but I don’t know for sure.

I’m left just trying to keep all of this in perspective. Despite the fun names involved and how interesting the rumors appear to be, in the end it’s more of the same. The Cleveland Browns pursued a candidate and there’s almost no doubt that they wanted him and in the end they couldn’t get him. The particulars and absolutes of how it all went down don’t matter that much. The Browns couldn’t get something they wanted or needed. Once again the city of Cleveland is left hoping the Browns got it right with a first-time head coach and feeling as if their team missed out.

  • MrCleaveland

    “. . . this is just another coach who chose not to work in Cleveland.”

    Technically that’s true, but I don’t see Harbaugh’s decision as being a knock on the Cleveland organization. It’s just that he’s got a very good thing going in San Francisco (Super Bowl and NFC championship game the past two years). Why give that up? It’s very possible he would have turned down similar offers by, say, Green Bay, Miami, Chicago, or anybody else. I wouldn’t get all upset over this as another “woe is us, everybody hates Cleveland” thing.

    Also, if he were to come here, he would have to give up a lot of good draft choices. That’s a little self-defeating, kind of like buying a new house and then breaking all the windows (or something).

    Also also, I heard somewhere that Harbaugh’s wife would rather live in San Francisco than Cleveland. Imagine that.

    I still would like to know the Haslam-Banner dynamic on this. Must have been pretty interesting.

  • maxfnmloans

    I must still be drunk from last night. What kind of mushrooms were on that burger anyhow?

  • mgbode

    and, let’s not underscore the family angle. his family has been living in NoCal for many years now (Stanford, SF) and likely are comfortable with where they are.

  • Bryan

    I love this rumor. It shows that Haslam, for all of his warts, thinks big. That is one of his strengths. He has many weaknesses, but his ability to think big is his biggest strength. It may lead to some volatility for another couple years, but I think it pays off in the end.

  • MrCleaveland

    Let’s do underscore the family angle by not underestimating it.

    /Tattles to teacher and then sticks tongue out at mg.

  • Toddyus

    I’m having such a hard time digesting this. What exactly would draw a guy from a perennial playoff contender on the verge of breaking through to the big game to a basement dweller with management issues? What could we offer him that he doesn’t already have in spades except more money?

    It’s like a rumor that Gisele almost left Brady for Brandon Weeden. Am I alone in questioning the real legitimacy of this?

  • RGB

    I’m going to chalk this up to another episode that was the dysfuntional lunacy of the Lombanner Traveling Circus.
    And thank the football gods that Jimmy had the stones to…

  • cbrockman9

    If the asset (Harbaugh) could easily and ultimately say, “no,” how was this even considered a “potential trade?” #tellittodannygranger. I would classify this as talk.


    I don’t doubt that the Browns tried to make it happen. Where I start to doubt is that Harbaugh ever seriously entertained it.