Holmgren not candidate 'at the present time'

BEREA, Ohio -- Although Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren left the door slightly open Monday, he has ruled himself out of the team's coaching search.

Holmgren says he doesn't consider himself a candidate for Cleveland's coaching job "at the present time." That small caveat provides the freedom to have a change of heart if necessary.

But for now Holmgren says he's dedicated to finding a top-notch candidate to replace the recently fired Eric Mangini. Holmgren, 62, says he understands the amount of hours and commitment it takes to be a successful head coach, and Holmgren is not sure he's ready for that commitment again.

"At this stage in my life that's not what my first priority is. It really isn't," Holmgren said. "I am enjoying and relishing the role that [Browns owner] Randy Lerner in confidence has given me."

But Holmgren also was candid about the possibility of returning to coaching.

"To tell you right now that I will never coach again, here or anywhere, that probably wouldn't be honest," Holmgren said. "You know that and I know that. But as of right now I am the president of the Cleveland Browns, and my job is to find the best coach available for the job and the right coach available for the job."

Considering the pool of candidates, we believe Holmgren is the best choice. He can generate instant credibility and buzz with the Browns in ways other candidates such as Marty Mornhinweg, John Fox, etc., cannot. Coaching also is what Holmgren, who has been to three Super Bowls, does best.

Holmgren is probably the only A-list coach Cleveland (5-11) can land this year. Other top names like Jon Gruden will be a tough sell, considering more attractive vacancies are available.

Holmgren expressed concern Monday about the number of projected openings around the NFL this offseason. The best coaches all will be pursued by the same teams, and Holmgren faces a stiff challenge finding a way to push Cleveland to the top of that list.

"We're going to work very, very hard to get the right person, you can believe that," Holmgren said. "And I'm hopeful that we can. Am I positive? I can't say."

If Holmgren cannot find someone to meet his standards, it's possible he could rethink returning to the sidelines. When asked about that scenario Monday, Holmgren says it's "too premature."

Holmgren didn't provide names, but he says Cleveland's search will be wide-ranging.

This will be the most important decision Holmgren makes during his tenure in Cleveland. The stakes are raised even higher considering the next coach -- fair or unfair -- will be compared to what Holmgren may have accomplished had he coached the team.