The San Francisco 49ers were unexpectedly jolted into the NFL‘s bright spotlight this week when news of a failed trade involving Jim Harbaugh and the Cleveland Browns broke. While tension between general manager Trent Baalke and Harbaugh was first noted publicly back in December, it’s become quite obvious that’s it’s worse than previously believed. Chris Simms recently told Bleacher Report’s Adam Lefkoe that he thinks Harbaugh and the 49ers are headed for “an ugly divorce.”
If you’re a 49ers fan, chances are you’re siding with Harbaugh in this now-public tiff. That’s completely understandable, as his arrival in 2011 has breathed new life into a franchise that had been stuck in a long rut. But removing yourself from your affinity and emotional attachment to Harbaugh, would a trade really be all that bad for the franchise?
Just think about what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave up to acquire Jon Gruden from the Oakland Raiders in 2002 — the Raiders received Tampa’s first-round draft pick in both 2002 and 2003, as well as the Raiders’ second-round pick in 2002 and 2004. Needless to say, they could acquire an enormous amount of potential firepower that the 49ers could acquire in the draft. There’s no reason that the 49ers couldn’t demand a similar price for Harbaugh’s services, and if things are indeed falling apart in the front office, they’d be smart to acquire value for him while they still can.
Regardless of how favorable any trade scenario is for the 49ers, saying goodbye to Harbaugh would be a monumental risk. It’s been said that CEO Jed York would side with Baalke over Harbaugh, which is odd considering the higher level of turnover at head coach and how tough it is to replace someone of Harbaugh’s caliber. Would Jim Tomsula do an adequate job of filling Harbaugh’s big shoes? What about Greg Roman?
For now, these are all hypothetical scenarios. But they may not be so far-fetched down the line, and if Harbaugh and the 49ers’ front office don’t make progress on an extension this offseason, it’ll be yet another sign that the relationship is broken beyond repair.