Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thanks, Jim, for staying home

When Joe Banner teased the Cleveland media late in the Browns’ head coaching search with the news of a “mystery candidate,” little did we know how much of a blockbuster effect it would have had on the future of pro football in Cleveland.

If we are to believe the story coming out of the San Francisco area, the Browns and San Francisco 49ers were talking about a deal that would have sent coach Jim Harbaugh to Cleveland for a whole bunch of draft choices.

The Browns were dealing from a position of strength with 10 picks in the May college football draft. They had the ammunition to pull off this kind of deal and bring in a big-name head coach.

Reportedly, Harbaugh and his general manager in San Francisco have not been getting along. And that might have triggered at least some interest on the Browns’ part.

When the story broke Friday about the deal that did not materialize, the Browns did not deny it, stating instead they were very happy with their choice of Mike Pettine as Rob Chudzinski’s successor. The 49ers, however, denied the report.

The report said Harbaugh finally decided to remain in the Bay Area. And why not? All he has done is resurrect the 49ers football program to where it is now among the elite in the National Football League.

For staying put, Harbaugh deserves a huge thank you for coming to his senses. Thank you for sparing the Browns the embarrassment of making one of the dumbest NFL trades since 1999. Maybe of all time.

That was when the New Orleans Saints traded their entire draft (six picks), plus their first- and third-round choices in the 2000 draft to the Washington Redskins for the chance to grab University of Texas running back Ricky Williams with the No. 5 selection.

That’s how badly Saints coach Mike Ditka wanted Williams. It was a disaster. Ditka departed New Orleans after three seasons with a 15-33 record.

Fans should be overjoyed the San Francisco deal never came to fruition. They should be thrilled Harbaugh had second thoughts about such a move and chose to stay. You win games with players, not coaches.

The lifeblood of any franchise is the draft. Each pick is like a nugget that needs to be mined. The more nuggets you have, the greater chance of being successful.

Of the Browns’ 10 picks in the May lottery, called by many experts the strongest and deepest in at least the last 10 years, seven are in the first four rounds. That they were even thinking about trading any of them for a coach is idiotic.

With talent like that looming, what sense does it makes to swap nearly half of them, including probably the first four, for someone who coaches one of the best teams, from a talent standpoint, in the NFL?

Speaking hypothetically, Harbaugh comes to Cleveland with who knows what at quarterback, no running game, a wide receiving corps that is bankrupt except for the most productive wideout in the league, an offensive line that is marginal at best and a defense that is adequate at best. Then what?

Does he come right in a turn this team around? No way. There are way too many problems to overcome before that happens.

In San Francisco, Harbaugh inherited a talented team that was poorly coached by Mike Singletary. As a successful college coach with an NFL pedigree, he easily turned the 49ers into a contender, taking them to three straight NFC championship games and a Super Bowl.

One more thing. If Harbaugh was, indeed, the “mystery” candidate in the prolonged Browns’ search for a new head coach, there is no way he agrees to come to Cleveland without being totally in charge.

There is no way Banner or Mike Lombardi waltz into the background and say, “Sure, Jim, whatever you want. We’ll just sit back and take all the credit for bringing you to Cleveland.”

In the end, it turned out to be a non-story. But what a sensational non-story it was.


  1. Do you think Lombardi dropped/leaked this bomb as a parting shot to the Browns, or was it a ploy by the Harbaugh camp to either hasten his departure or secure a bigger contract?

  2. Sounds like something Lombardi would do. It fits his M.O.

    If it was a ploy to get Harbaugh a bigger contract, it didn't work. He and his GM do not get along. This could turn out to be a power play that Harbaugh should win.

  3. I agree about Harbaugh not so much over losing picks, but because I'm not sure having a guy like him in total control would work out. The Niners personnel moves have been mediocre at best since his arrival. The roster was already loaded from Baalke's solid drafts. They needed a QB, but is Harbaugh's hand-picked guy, Kaepernick the answer? Not with that 4th Q in the NFC title game.

    Also, we already had this with Butch Davis. Granted, Davis didn't have NFL success when he came here, but he was probably the best coach the Browns have had since 99 but his personnel decisions were awful.

    I'll roll the dice with a new HC who is hungry and does not yet appear to be power hungry. And I'll roll the dice with a GM who has worked his way up the personnel ranks and has learned something about talent evaluation. We may finally have a structure that could work. We'll see...

  4. BTW the above comment is from Paul in Seattle. Thanks.