Jim Harbaugh's relationship with the San Francisco 49ers has apparently gone from bad to worse. In the wake of reports that the head coach was shopped to the Cleveland Browns, Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke are "barely speaking," according to Jason La Canfora of CBS. La Confora claims Harbaugh is clashing with others in the organization, including team president Paraag Marathe.
The notion of San Francisco and Harbaugh having problems arose with the news that the 49ers and Browns were in the process of trade talks which would have sent Harbaugh to the banks of Lake Erie in exchange for draft picks.
La Canfora says that should Harbaugh be jettisoned, either by trade or an unthinkable release, the 49ers would likely promote defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.
The 49ers hired Harbaugh three years ago. At the time, they had not been to an NFC Championship game since 1997, but have reached the NFC title game all three seasons under Harbaugh, including a Super Bowl appearance in 2013.
How did things unravel to this point? Here's a timeline of the drama:
Friday, 4:28 p.m.: Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that the Browns had been in trade discussions for Harbaugh, hoping to fill their head coaching vacancy with the former quarterback. The deal was killed by Harbaugh, who did not want to leave for Cleveland.
Supposedly, the trade would have involved the Browns sending multiple picks to San Francisco.
Friday: 5:21 p.m.: Jon Stinchcomb of Dawgs By Nature compiled a bevy of tweets that Joe Lull of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland fired off as the news was breaking from Florio about Harbaugh and the Browns.
Lull had previously reported that all the candidates for the Browns' head coaching job had not been brought to light. At the time, he wasn't willing to disclose who the man was, per Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature.
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
Friday night/Saturday morning: Ian Rapoport of NFL.com refutes the claim that San Francisco discussed trading Harbaugh to the Browns.
Friday, 6:12 p.m.: 49ers owner Jed York tells his side of the story.
Saturday, 11:39 a.m.: Browns head coach Mike Pettine talks about his feelings at the NFL Combine on the report that his new team hired him as a consolation prize, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"I got a phone call saying that report was about to come out and I shot the messenger a little bit,'' Pettine said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I asked, ‘How does that affect my tenure as the head coach? Has that changed?' The obvious answer was 'no' and I think my next sentence, I either used the word flying followed by something, or referenced a part of a rat’s body.''
Saturday, 11:20 p.m.: Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle caught up with Harbaugh in Indianapolis and got the following quote from the 49ers leader:
"The report? Reee-diculous. Reee-diculous. No. Ridiculous."
In the same story, a rival general manager had a different thought:
"Where there is smoke, there is fire," one general manager said Friday night. "This could be the first visible sign of a crack that could bring the whole thing they've built down to the ground."
Monday, 4:03 a.m.: Browns owner Jimmy Haslam confirms that Cleveland had discussions with the 49ers, per USA Today Sports.
"There was an opportunity there, and it didn't materialize," Haslam said.
In the meantime, David Fucillo of Niners Nation is hoping the story can subside to allow Harbaugh and the 49ers to live in harmony again:
All we can hope for at this point is that the 49ers and Jim Harbaugh get an extension worked out. Until we hear of an extension, we'll be stuck with the PFT's of the world throwing as much out there as they can to prove they were right initially. If the team goes into the 2014 season with an extension still waiting, I can understand why fans would become concerned.
It's one reason winning the Super Bowl any of these last three years would have been even better. It would remove that "can he win the big one?" from contract negotiations. But, the 49ers haven't won, and so we're stuck with this side of contract negotiations. Such is life. I don't think the situation is nearly at the level national media would like us to think it is.
Fucillo also believes there is a man getting away clean from this story who has some dirt on his hands:
One person not mentioned in any reports (except that of socalisteph) is Harbaugh's agent, David Dunn. I've heard from Texas friends that Dunn was behind the Harbaugh-Texas rumors. I thought that was the case, but had never heard it specifically. The belief is that one reason national NFL media reported on it and college guys were not was because Dunn has their ear. Very few people seem to be asking the question about Dunn's involvement in any of this. I do wonder if he's such a significant source for some media members that they wouldn't dare throw anything on him with this.
As the offseason continues, it will be intriguing to see how the drama in San Francisco unfolds. Harbaugh has two years left on his five-year contract, but will he receive an extension? Should he go through the 2014-15 season without an extension, the NFL world will be watching next offseason because without a new deal, he would be coming in as a lame duck.
Harbaugh has been a popular source of coaching rumors dating back to his time at Stanford. Here's a timeline of the major rumors he's been involved in since 2009.
Dec. 12, 2009: Stanford announces it has signed Harbaugh to a three-year extension amid rumored interest from Notre Dame and Kansas.
Jan. 11, 2010: Still at Stanford, Harbaugh refuses to comment on rumors that he'll replace Pete Carroll at USC.
Nov. 25, 2010: ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit reports that Harbaugh is poised to replace Rich Rodriquez at Michigan.
Herbstreit, via The Ann Arbor News.
There's been rumors up in here, up in the north, that on Monday, they might make a move and release Rich Rodriguez. If that happens, within 24 hours, Jim Harbaugh will be announced as the Michigan coach.
Jan. 9, 2011: Harbaugh signs a five-year deal as the head coach of the 49ers.
Dec. 12, 2013: Adam Schefter reports that Texas is interested in Harbaugh, and that Harbaugh turned down an offer from USC earlier in the year.
49ers HC Jim Harbaugh said to be on Texas' wish list but earlier this year, Harbaugh flat out rejected USC. Expected to remain with 49ers.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 12, 2013
The Longhorns eventually hire Charlie Strong.
Jan. 8, 2014: Jason La Canfora reports that the Dolphins are looking at hiring former 49ers personnel exec Tom Gamble as their general manager in hopes of bolstering their chances of landing Harbaugh in the future. Gamble was with the Niners when Harbaugh chose them over the Dolphins in 2011.