Yes, the Browns reached out to the 49ers about a possible trade for Jim Harbaugh, 49ers owner Jed York said today, but the overture was quickly turned down. York, who has had on-and-off contract discussions with Harbaugh, also reiterated what he said in December: "We want Jim to be our head coach, and we've said that very clearly."
When Pro Football Talk's initial report about about a near-trade of Harbaugh to Cleveland first surfaced Friday, York went onto Twitter to say it wasn't true. He elaborated today, confirming an earlier report in The Bee that the Browns, the only team without a head coach when the 49ers season ended Jan. 19, initially called to ask about offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. They followed that by asking about Harbaugh.
How far did the conversation get? "Not far at all," York said. "We had no interest in entering those discussions."
ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that a first-round pick was not part of the compensation the Browns offered, lending credence to the stance that any trade discussion was short-lived.
Asked why he initially offered a flat denial of the PFT story, York said it's because the story wasn't true. The original story said the two sides nearly pulled off a trade for Harbaugh and that it was Harbaugh who ultimately decided not to leave the 49ers.
Asked why he waited to address the story, York said he and the 49ers have a policy to keep trade discussions private. "We keep calls to ourselves," he said. "I see no reason talking about another team - that's how we do business."
The Browns never have challenged the veracity of the original report. Owner Jimmy Haslam on Sunday told USA TODAY there was an "opportunity" to trade for Harbaugh but it "didn't materialize."
Cleveland may have seen an opportunity to land Harbaugh based on reports that initial discussions about a contract extension for Harbaugh did not go well and on talk that he and general manager Trent Baalke do not get along. The Browns also may have thought Harbaugh would want to work with their then-general manager, Mike Lombardi, a friend of Harbaugh's from their time together with the Raiders.
Both Lombardi and the man in charge of the Browns coaching search, CEO Joe Banner, were fired this month. Days after contacting the 49ers about Harbaugh, Cleveland hired Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
York said he would resume contract talks with Harbaugh whenever Harbaugh chooses but guessed that they wouldn't take place until after the May 8 draft. Harbaugh signed a five-year, $25 million deal in 2011, a contract that puts him in the middle of the pack as far as NFL coaches and one he's outperformed by taking his team to at least the NFC Championship game in his first three seasons.
Harbaugh and agent David Dunn, however, are seeking to make him the highest-paid coach, something the 49ers are reluctant to fulfill until they win a Super Bowl.
- Matt Barrows