But that doesn't mean the Jets head coach is ready to look for another route to the playoffs.
Ryan, who is still optimistic about reaching the postseason and winning the division despite being more timid about his annual Super Bowl guarantee, wouldn't back down when asked about the Patriots on Saturday.
"Do I respect New England and the fact that New England has won our division a zillion times? The three years I've been here, they've won it all three years — and I don't think it's been close," he said, according to ESPN New York. But "I will never back down and concede anything. When you talk about conceding the division. … Yeah, right. Not me. There's no chance here. Not with the Jets."
Ryan has always spouted bravado against the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick. When Ryan arrived in New York, he proclaimed, "I'm not here to kiss [Belichick's] rings," among other headline-inducing statements.
But the Patriots have clearly had the edge during Ryan's tenure. The first year, the Jets finished one game behind New England in the AFC East standings. In 2010, it was three games back, and in 2011, five games.
While the Jets did knock off the Patriots in the 2010 playoffs as a wild card, New England went all the way to the Super Bowl last year while New York finished at .500 and missed the postseason. The team faces some rebuilding this year that has decreased expectations for how far the Jets can go.
But one thing is sure: Any journey to success begins with the Pats.
"You've got to knock New England off," Ryan said. "They've been clearly dominating this division for years and years and years. So you have to beat them. It always goes through them."
The Patriots, who have taken the division every year Tom Brady has been under center for the majority of the season, would seem to agree.