INDIANAPOLIS — How’s this for the wildest story of the young NFL off-season:
The Cleveland Browns nearly traded for San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh, according to ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio.
Florio cities multiple league sources and says the Browns were ready to send multiple draft picks to San Francisco in exchange for Harbaugh, who led the 49ers to the NFC championship game in each of the last three seasons, once reaching the Super Bowl.
According to the story, Harbaugh ultimately decided not to leave the 49ers, and, of course, the Browns went on to hire Mike Pettine as coach. Had he gone to Cleveland, Harbaugh would have been in the same division as his older brother, John, coach of the Baltimore Ravens.
Although Jim Harbaugh could not be reached for comment Friday -- reporters were on the lookout for him in Indianapolis at the scouting combine -- 49ers owner Jed York flatly denied the report on Twitter.
“Report isn’t true,” York tweeted.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport quoted an unnamed 49ers source who called the report “completely false. Ridiculous.”
Harbaugh is done with the first three seasons of a five-year, $25-million deal he signed in 2011. He and the 49ers reportedly are in extension talks.
It’s interesting, though, that in the Browns’ statement on the report, they didn’t deny it.
“The team conducted an extensive coaching search and explored several options,” the Browns said in a written statement. “That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we’re excited about his future with the club.”
Teams have traded for coaches before. That’s how Tampa Bay got Jon Gruden from Oakland, and Kansas City got Herm Edwards from the New York Jets.