New Browns coach Mike Pettine was warned Friday that a report soon would surface saying Cleveland nearly completed a trade for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
Pettine admitted his initial reaction was a bit animated.
“I shot the messenger a little bit,” Pettine said Saturday at the NFL scouting combine. “Because I asked him, ‘How does that affect my tenure as head coach?’ And then in the next sentence, maybe I used the word ‘flying’ followed by something or referenced a part of a rat’s body.”
But Pettine said he ultimately decided a pursuit of Harbaugh, who has led the 49ers to three NFC championship games in this three seasons with the team, showed the Browns were intent on changing their losing ways.
“When you look at it, I think that it shows that the organization is committed to getting it turned around, that it would investigate that option,” Pettine said. “Me, I see that as a positive.”
Pettine’s words seemed to be an acknowledgment that, at least in his mind, the Browns tried to land Harbaugh. He and 49ers owner Jed York adamantly have denied the initial report from Pro Football Talk, which said Harbaugh ultimately nixed a deal.
The 49ers and Harbaugh have been negotiating an extension to Harbaugh’s contract. He is entering the fourth season on a five-year deal.
Pettine said the Browns’ coaching search has no bearing on him or the organization. The two men who conducted it, Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner, were fired earlier this month, and the team hired Ray Farmer as its new general manager.
“I think that’s noise,” Pettine said of the report. “It’s something that has no bearing on my job. I think that’s a critical thing. I think a big part of being an NFL head coach is dealing with the noise and dealing with the distraction, and you can just add that one to the list.”
Kaepernick is entering the final year of his rookie deal, which will pay him $974,000 in base salary. A new deal likely will make him the 49ers’ highest-paid player.
General manager Trent Baalke declined to discuss the status of that, or any other, negotiation.
“Where we are with any of this stuff, it really stays in-house, as always,” he said. “We’re working on a lot of different things right now with our own players.”
Harbaugh said the top objective is to re-sign wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who becomes a free agent March 11. Other pending free agents include safety Donte Whitner, cornerback Tarell Brown, kicker Phil Dawson, wide receiver Mario Manningham, cornerback Eric Wright and quarterback Colt McCoy.