NFL: Cleveland Browns claim talks over Jim Harbaugh trade with 49ers
A rift between the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh is developing after the Browns revealed they held talks over a trade.
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH
Last Updated: 24/02/14 3:04pm
Niners CEO Jed York had initially flatly denied talk of the 49ers trading Harbaugh to the Browns in exchange for draft picks, a sentiment echoed by Harbaugh himself when reports first emerged at the NFL Combine over the weekend.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, though, revealed that there were talks about a trade that would have shocked the NFL, even if they didn't result in a move.
"There was an opportunity there, and it didn't materialise," Haslam told USA Today of Cleveland's apparent pursuit of Harbaugh before eventually hiring Mike Pettine.
After the initial denial, York then admitted that contact did occur: "The Browns reached out to me, and we had no interest in pursuing it," York told Peter King of TheMMQB.com.
Haslam's revelations will do little for Pettine's confidence as he's most certainly been a second choice behind Harbaugh, but even more damage could be done over in San Francisco with relations between coach and club widely reported as being strained at the best.
Harbaugh has just two seasons left on his contract, and having reached the NFC championship game in all three of his seasons in charge so far and one Super Bowl appearance, it's strange to think that his job security could be anything other than rock-solid.
However, no new deal has been reached and 49ers upper management are said to be unwilling to hand out an elite-level coaching salary unless Harbaugh actually wins a Vince Lombardi trophy.
It also seems that Harbaugh's relationship with general manager Trent Baalke is close to becoming unworkable, and if that deteriorates even further then they could be faced with a decision to make between the two men.
Having built up one of the best teams in the NFL, many think the 49ers would be mad not to get Harbaugh signed up to a new deal as soon as possible, and that would quieten the growing talk of unrest behind the scenes.
The longer it goes on without any movement on a contract the more whispers will grow louder though, and with Haslam claiming talks about a trade, Harbaugh will want York to clear that up before he agrees on a new deal.