(SportsNetwork.com) - The Cleveland Browns engaged in talks with the San Francisco 49ers to acquire Jim Harbaugh during their recent head coaching search, according to a report issued by ProFootballTalk.com.
Per PFT, the proposed swap would have involved sending multiple draft choices to the 49ers. The deal fell through when Harbaugh ultimately decided to stay in San Francisco, according to multiple league sources.
The Browns eventually hired Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to replace the dismissed Rob Chudzinski following an lengthy search that lasted nearly a month.
Harbaugh, who led the 49ers to an NFC championship in 2012 and has guided the club to the playoffs in each of his three seasons at the helm, still has two years remaining on his original contract with the 49ers.
The Browns issued a statement following the report's release, which did not deny the rumors.
"The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options," the statement read. "That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we're excited about his future with the club."
Trading for a head coach is not unprecedented in the NFL. In 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers obtained Jon Gruden from the Oakland Raiders in exchange for four draft picks -- including a pair of first-rounders -- as well as cash considerations.
In a somewhat similar scenario, Bill Belichick resigned as head coach of the New York Jets just days after replacing the then-retiring Bill Parcells after the 1999 season, only to take the same position with New England shortly afterward. The NFL awarded the Jets the Patriots' first-round pick in the 2000 draft as compensation.
Harbaugh, who has gone 36-11-1 in three seasons in San Francisco, was born in Ohio. If the Browns had pulled off the trade, he would be coaching in the same division as his brother, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.