The speculative stories about Jim Harbaugh being “traded” to the Cleveland Browns naturally brought to mind the time Al Davis traded Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for multiple draft choices. But the two circumstances were much different.
In the Raiders’ example, that was no problem because Davis wanted Gruden to leave and Gruden wanted to.
As soon as Gruden’s face started popping up on Bay Area billboards, his fate was sealed. There could be only one face of the Raiders, and it wasn’t the coach’s. Gruden was tired of fighting the battle to bring in real football players instead of the track team Davis seemed to want.
Gruden also knew he was going to a good team, one he coached to a lopsided win in the Super Bowl over the Raiders, the start of the Raiders’ descent into football hell which they still haven’t dug out from.
<p> None of those conditions exist in the Harbaugh situation. He emphatically denied any desire to go to the Browns, of course. Frankly, I doubt this ever got beyond wishful thinking by the Browns. The latest report by the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows, whom I know and respect, is that Browns’ front office approached the 49ers with the idea and were quickly rebuffed. In this new era of journalism, when fanciful rumors are treated as fact, it’s often hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, but in this case, common sense helps.
The first point: Who could ever think that Harbaugh would want to go to the Browns, a pathetic organization, when he has such a good situation with the 49ers?
The second point: Do the Niners need more draft picks — below the first round — more than they need a very good coach? That answers itself.
I had a long interview with 49ers CEO Jed York for a 2011 magazine profile and he explained his desire to sign Harbaugh as the 49ers’ coach. Harbaugh was the only candidate he and general manager Trent Baalke were looking at. When Harbaugh told York he had an interview scheduled with Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross after the Orange Bowl (which Stanford won), York told him to take the interview. “We’re not going anywhere,” he told Harbaugh. “You’re the one we want.”
Harbaugh reportedly met with Ross in the Bay Area, but wound up agreeing to a contract with the Niners.
York certainly hasn’t regretted his decision, after Harbaugh became the first coach in NFL history to coach a team to the league championship game in each of his first three years. In the middle of those three years, he led the Niners to the Super Bowl.
So now, York is just going to let Harbaugh go? Give me a break.
The 49ers’ situation isn’t perfect. Harbaugh and Baalke have had some clashes, most likely because of their egos, but they’ve also worked well together. Though Baalke runs the draft, he traded up in the second round in 2011 so the Niners could draft the quarterback Harbaugh wanted, Colin Kaepernick.
So, forget all the noise. Harbaugh isn’t going anywhere and the 49ers’ success will continue.