Jim Harbaugh is a great coach. The Cleveland Browns are in need of one. Let’s make a deal! A trade with the 49ers for Harbaugh was proposed, but will it actually happen? And is trading for a coach hitting below the belt? Dan Salem and Todd Salem debate a world of open-ended trades in part one of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.
The Cleveland Browns want Jim Harbaugh as their coach. This is not news; more than half the teams in the NFL would love to have him in charge, on the sidelines on Sundays. What blows me away is the idea of a coach being traded. This is news! The Cleveland Browns had the balls, the gusto, to offer a trade to the San Francisco 49ers for their head coach.
I wish I’d been in the room when the 49ers’ front office got the phone call. It definitely went something like this: “Yes hello, I’d like to speak with the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers. Oh that’s you, well great. I’m calling from the Cleveland Browns and I have a trade offer to propose… No we are not offering Josh Gordon… No, not McGahee either… Yes I’m aware no one wants Jason Campbell. I’m calling to relieve you of the headache that is Jim Harbaugh. We’re prepared to make a hefty offer, money and draft picks, to take the headstrong coach off your hands… Don’t laugh at me… Hello? …. I think they hung up.”
I enjoyed that very much. The Cleveland Browns have reached a new low that I didn’t think was possible. I must commend them for at least asking, because if you don’t ask then the answer is always no. But in this case the answer was going to be no regardless and now they look stupid. It’s not like they asked for a winning coach, coming off a poor season, who is nearing the end of his contract. Harbaugh led the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship games. He was in the Super Bowl just a season prior. Of course the Browns want him and of course they can’t have him!
What’s your take on this mess? I have my own feelings on trading for a coach, but we have to clear the stinky brown air that Cleveland filled with its moronic trade offer first.
I think there are many more sides to this story than you realize.
First of all, we are not quite sure the logistics of what went down. Conflicting reports have come out stating that a trade was in fact agreed upon between Cleveland and San Francisco. We have also heard San Fran brass deny that any trade talk even occurred, even while Browns ownership confirmed the discussions. And then there’s Jim Harbaugh and his whole role in this. His contract does run out soon, I believe after next season, so he may be looking for an extension that isn’t coming or may even want to coach elsewhere.
From what I can gather, there are three sides to this. The first of which, Cleveland’s side, is patently obvious. They needed a new head coach so they attempted to acquire one of the best in the league. You hinted at this desire in your fake phone call. However, I am torn on the soundness of the reasoning behind it.
Is attempting to acquire another team’s head coach really a new low? It has happened before with Jon Gruden. Gruden led the Oakland Raiders to some playoff success before being dealt away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following Tony Dungy’s reign. The Bucs gave up a lot (A LOT) for Gruden’s services, but he led them to a Super Bowl title the very next season. So it hardly seemed like a raw deal. Yet I have some trouble attempting to quantify what a head coach is worth on the trade market. The situation simply does not come up very often. And apparently, the NFL attempted to outlaw the practice briefly after that very Gruden trade went down.
When you think of an NFL franchise, the two most valuable pieces everyone always points to are the starting quarterback and the head coach. This is inarguable. Offseason coaching changes often improve teams with exactly the same roster as the previous regime. So wouldn’t it follow suit that trading for one of the best coaches in the league (which everyone seems to agree Harbaugh is) would be comparable to trading for one of the best quarterbacks?
If that is the case, Cleveland would have had to give up multiple first round picks and multiple later picks in a trade with the 49ers. That seems exorbitant and yet, here is the haul St. Louis got when trading the pick that would be Robert Griffin III to Washington: three first-round picks and a second-round pick. And here is what Oakland got from Tampa for Gruden way back when: two first-round picks, two second-round picks and cash.
Both of those comps seem like an awful lot to give up for someone who doesn’t even suit up. But how much better would the Browns be with Harbaugh on the sidelines? They already have a good defense. They have some Pro Bowl level players on both sides of the ball. I personally like Brian Hoyer, but it obviously remains to be seen whether he can come back and be a full-time starter at quarterback. But there is no denying that Cleveland would have been better last year had Jim Harbaugh been its coach. The exact number of games is impossible to know, but “multiple games better” seems like a nice place to start.
If that is the case and a team improves by a few wins by making a drastic improvement at the head coach position, then what is a fair return? It feels as though numerous, high draft picks should be a baseline offer. If not for the uncertainty and craziness on the sidelines for Cleveland (and in upper management for that matter), they seem like a fair bet to win the AFC North in the next season or two.
Looking at it from that vantage point, it almost seems silly for Cleveland NOT to make an offer for Harbaugh, especially if the supposed cracks in Jim’s and San Francisco’s relationship are true.