The Cleveland Indians made a bold move at the tail end of the 2012 MLB season. With Manny Acta losing control of a team with a dearth of talent and depth, Indians’ GM Chris Antonetti fired his first official coaching hire and went for a home run. In his sight was a good friend who just happened to be a former two-time World Champion manager, Terry Francona.
Mark Shapiro will never admit to this, but I firmly believed then (and now) that had Antonetti missed on Francona, he would have followed Manny Acta out the door in quick fashion. I know there are conflicting reports, but you don’t have to use your heads to much to realize just how true it likely was.
Francona signed with the Indians, and the rest is history. The Indians front office went from a local joke to garnering more respect, free agents were signed, and the Indians righted the ship in quick fashion.
Fast Forward to 2013. Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi made a bold move at the tail end of the 2013 NFL season. With Rob Chudzinski reportedly losing control of the Browns’ locker room, the team president and general manager fired their first official coaching hire and apparently went for a home run. In their sight was a coach who had back-to-back trips to the NFC Championship game to go along with a trip to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, Jim Harbaugh.
The deal was more complicated, since Harbaugh still had two seasons left on his contract, and the Browns would have had to offer draft pick compensation, but the theory was still the same. Go out and sign a big name coach, bring respectability on the field to a team that has looked like the Keystone Cops of the NFL, and in turn, save a couple of jobs.
It explains so much.
It explains the firing.
It explains the lag time.
It explains the “patience” from the front office.
Seriously, it was likely Harbaugh or a permanent vacation. There weren’t any other home runs out there to be had, so this was their Terry Francona.
In the end, Harbaugh said no. You can insert 100 reasons why he wouldn’t want to change teams, but it likely started with front office stability (saving Banner and Lombardi meant working for them), ownership stability and a team that will again be knocking on the door of the Super Bowl next season.
Banner and Lombardi likely held on to finish the job of hiring the best coach that would take it, then were relieved of their duties after another failure.
In the end, Pettine was a solid choice, but leave it to the Browns to add this sort of wrinkle and miss into the equation.
But how fun would that have been? Coaching the Browns: Jim Harbaugh. Coaching the Ravens: John Harbaugh. How long would it have been before both were having a sibling throwdown at the fifty-yard line at FirstEnergy Stadium?
We can only dream…