Reports have been coming in from all over, giving varying degrees of substance to the rumors that the 49ers were working out a deal to trade Harbaugh to the Browns. If you are like me, however, the more these rumors stack up, the less you care. It is conceivable that the Browns put together what they thought was a decent offer for Harbaugh, and the 49ers might have even listened, but the fact is, it didn’t get done. Any speculation on Harbaugh’s relationship with the front office and Jed York feels irrelevant, and it will be until the 49ers and Harbaugh work out an extension (or don’t).
This isn’t the first time rumors have surrounded Harbaugh. After Mack Brown stepped down as head coach at the University of Texas, Harbaugh was considered a front runner for the job. Harbaugh was also pursued at Stanford, where he was offered a job coaching at USC after Pete Carroll fled.
The most annoying thing about this supposed deal is the continued speculation around Harbaugh’s relationship with Trent Baalke and other members of the 49ers’ front office. Tim Kawakami wrote a mostly speculative article on this subject earlier in the year, saying that Harbaugh and the 49ers’ general manager regularly butt heads over personnel decisions. This speculation would be interesting or relevant if it had led to anything substantial happening either on the field or during the draft process, but it hasn’t. Jim Harbaugh has a 36-11-1 record as a head coach, and is the first NFL coach to reach the NFC Championship in his first three seasons. It is wholly believable that a man as driven as Harbaugh has disagreements with his peers. The real question is, do we care? Jason La Canfora recently wrote an article entitled “Jim Harbaugh’s relationship with 49ers brass is getting worse”, implying that the relationship was a bad one to begin with. If this worries you, I once again encourage you to think back on Harbaugh’s last three seasons. Do we measure the quality of Harbaugh’s relationships on what sports writers report, or the results on the field?
It is still early days in the offseason, but football writers are plenty desperate for something to write about. The problem with discussions like the one currently surrounding Harbaugh is that we will likely never know the full story. This opens up opportunities for reporters to make waves by speculating, giving credence to rumors that may or may not be true, and more importantly, may or may not matter.