And some say he's a better defensive coordinator than he is an NFL head coach.
"I should be a better coach now than I was four or five years ago," Ryan said, "and I think I am."
As the losses started stacking up the last two years, some fans started tuning out Ryan. And the danger, some speculated, is that the players could, too.
But Johnson is confident Ryan is the man to bring the Jets back to prominence on the field, hiring general manager John Idzik with the provision that his coach was already in place. That's a shaky proposition because most incoming GMs prefer to surround themselves with their own people — including the coach. Some have labeled Ryan a "lame duck," a placeholder for whomever Idzik decides to hire next offseason.
"I'm not going to worry about outside perceptions or anything else," Ryan said. "My focus is on the job at hand. It's not about being a 'lame duck' or being whatever."
Ryan has also not been offered or discussed a contract extension by the Jets.
"Look, I have this season and I have one more season left on my contract," he said. "If Mr. Johnson says, 'Hey, you know what? Let's do something,' then that will be addressed at that time. Right now, the time is for this: Let's get this thing going and put all of our energy into this season."
While he may look different, down 115 pounds since his weight-loss surgery, the 50-year-old Ryan insists he has never been asked by Johnson or Idzik to tone down his ways.
"Not once," Ryan said. "No, because you know what? You can't change. I'm going to be who I am, but I can learn from things. I'm always going to be true to my personality and true to myself, but you also learn. You can't buy experience."
The Jets parted with their best player a few weeks ago, trading Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay, and they cut Tebow on Monday. They have also lost several other key players to free agency during the last few months, giving Ryan a new-look roster to work with in a season that could affect his long-term future with the franchise.
"It's the same exact way I felt when I was hired, that here's an opportunity that I have in front of me that I've been blessed with," Ryan said. "It's Year 1 again, and I'm ready to go and I don't look at it any other way."