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The Raiders and New York Jets are reportedly the top candidates to approach the 49ers about a possible trade for coach Jim Harbaugh.
The Raiders are the favorites and the Jets are also “known to be keeping a close eye on the situation,” according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Cleveland Browns called the 49ers last offseason to inquire about Harbaugh’s availability.
Harbaugh’s status beyond this season has been in doubt since CEO Jed York and Harbaugh tabled contract talks in late-July. Harbaugh is in the fourth year of the five-year, $25 million contract he signed in January 2011.
Harbaugh has the third-highest winning percentage (.729) of any coach of multiple seasons in the modern era of NFL history. He ranks behind only John Madden and Vince Lombardi. After an eight-year playoff drought, the 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship game in each of Harbaugh's first three seasons.
If the 49ers move on from Harbaugh, it will have more to do with his personality and relationships within the 49ers organization than with the results on the field. This season, the 49ers (7-5) have been plagued by injuries and inconsistent play on offense. The 49ers probably have to win their final four games of the regular season to advance to the playoffs.
After the 49ers’ 19-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday, York apologized to fans for the team’s performance:
“Thank you #49ersfaithful for coming out strong tonight. This performance wasn't acceptable. I apologize for that.”
One potential sticking point on any potential trade could be Harbaugh’s unwillingness to go to a team that has to give up a draft pick in order to acquire his services. All indications are that Harbaugh would be willing to coach the 49ers next season in the final year of his contract. But after a tumultuous season, the 49ers are not likely to bring back Harbaugh as a possible lame-duck coach.