INDIANAPOLIS — Apparently the Browns’ meandering 25-day coaching search included one more twist. And it was a corkscrew.
Profootballtalk.com reported this afternoon the Browns nearly pulled off a trade with the 49ers for the rights to coach Jim Harbaugh, citing multiple league sources. A deal was in place that would’ve sent multiple draft picks to San Francisco, but Harbaugh decided not to leave the 49ers, the report said.
The Browns issued a statement that didn’t deny the near-trade.
“The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options,” it read. “That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we’re excited about his future with the club.”
Harbaugh and the Niners lost the NFC championship game to the Seahawks on Jan. 19. Pettine was hired Jan. 23 to replace Rob Chudzinski, who was fired after one season.
NFL teams haven’t made a trade involving a coach since Jon Gruden was traded from the Raiders to the Buccaneers in 2002. The Buccaneers gave up two first-round picks and two second-round picks over three drafts.
A 49ers spokesman didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment, but NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that a Niners source called it “completely false. Ridiculous.”
Harbaugh, 50, has taken the 49ers to the NFC title game in each of his first three years. He would’ve joined the AFC North with his brother John, coach of the Ravens.
Michael Lombardi, who was fired as Browns general manager last week, is close with the Harbaugh family, and his son Mick works for the 49ers as an assistant to the head coach.