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View Count: 70 |  Publish Date: February 23, 2014
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49ers' Harbaugh, York scoff at idea of trading coach

Indianapolis --
There are a handful of restaurants and bars here that NFL coaches, executives, agents and retired players flow to and from every night into the wee hours during NFL combine week. Fans in Indianapolis are either too laid back to care, or respect that NFL big shots need four nights or so a year to blow off steam.
The first couple of nights, conversations would get serious at some point, due to the shocking developments of former All-Pro safety and TV analyst Darren Sharper being charged as a serial rapist and Ravens All-Pro running back Ray Rice being caught on video punching his fiancee.
But Friday night, the drinks were stiffer and the laughs lasted all night, thanks to a new topic. The 49ers, who have been to three straight NFC Championship Games and are regarded as smug by some, had taken a baseball bat to the back of the leg.
Pro Football Talk reported that the Browns were close to a trade for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. While San Francisco owner Jed York repudiated the report on Twitter, ESPN later reported that the talks - which had the Niners getting back multiple draft picks - had reached a serious level.
CSN Bay Area caught up with Harbaugh on Saturday morning, and he said, The report? Reee-diculous. Reee-diculous. No. Ridiculous.
OK. But, what else are York and Harbaugh going to say?
Where there is smoke, there is fire, one general manager said Friday night. This could be the first visible sign of a crack that could bring the whole thing theyve built down to the ground.
Harbaugh has two years remaining on a five-year, $25 million contract, but talks of an extension reportedly fizzled last season. The San Jose Mercury News threw it out there in December that there was friction between Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke, who has the final say on personnel decisions.
York didnt deny it, but pointed to the 41-14-1 record over the past three years and said the two can coexist.
The Browns, for their part, issued a statement Friday and didnt deny that they tried to trade for Harbaugh. When Mike Pettine was hired as coach last month, then-Browns CEO Joe Banner acknowledged there was one last mystery candidate out there whod been under consideration but didnt name him.
Pettine took his previously-scheduled turn at the podium Saturday morning and called the report noise. It doesnt bother him, and why should it? Pettine knows he was Clevelands eighth or ninth choice.
He said he actually thinks the report attests to the organizations commitment to turning around the struggling franchise.
We probably wont ever know for sure just how close the Harbaugh family was to moving from the Bay Area to Cleveland, and, yeah, thats as terrible as it sounds. But the report, and the denials, do bring up three interesting questions:
-- What would it have taken to get the deal done, or even to get past an immediate No from Baalke and Harbaugh?
In 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave the Oakland Raiders two first-round picks, two second-rounders and $8 million for Jon Gruden.
The Browns have the fourth and 26th picks in the first round this year. What about ... those two picks, $1 million and lifetime passes to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
-- Who leaked the possible trade to Pro Football Talk?
Mike Lombardi, since fired as general manager of the Browns, is extremely close to Harbaugh - which is another reason to believe there is something here. Maybe Lombardi leaked it because he wanted to show people around the league what he almost did, which sounds like something embittered fired guys do everywhere.
Or maybe it was Banner, saying this guy Lombardi couldnt even get his buddy to come to Cleveland.
-- Where do the 49ers go from here?
Players have to be wondering about the Baalke-Harbaugh dynamic now, especially when the possible move is not close to a lateral one and more like a dive off the high board to the Browns.
Does York give Harbaugh a raise and an extension - richly deserved, by the way - and try and make the whole thing go away? Or is the next breaking report about Harbaugh coming next offseason about him taking a new job for more power?
If thats the case, York and the 49ers will look back on the extra draft picks that got away in early 2014.
Either way, the happy NFL coaches, scouts and media raise a glass and say thanks for getting us off the topics of Darren Sharper and Ray Rice these last couple of days.
Vic Tafur is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: vtafur@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @VicTafur

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Time: 2:45  |  News Code: 382250  |  Site: San Francisco Chronicle
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