You can be successful in the highly paranoid world of NFL coaching -- where giving the media as little information as possible is the most common approach -- without being, well, highly paranoid.
In only two years at the helm of the New York Jets, Ryan has established himself as a reporter's dream. He routinely provides headline-making commentary. He makes himself available and approachable, smiling and laughing through news conferences when so many of his peers treat the process like a trip to the dentist.
Who said it?
Ryan is so available and approachable, in fact, that the Professional Football Writers of America has given him its 2011 Horrigan Award, which acknowledges someone at the club or league level for helping members of the media do their job. And ultimately, that's what those of us in this business hope to get with everyone in the game but too often end up with less.
Ryan understands that. He prides himself on being different. Sometimes, that means predicting his team will win the Super Bowl. Sometimes, that means making outlandish remarks about opposing coaches and players. Most of the time, it means he is candid. He likes to talk ... and talk ... and talk. His love for communicating came through loud and clear during his star-making appearance in the HBO "Hard Knocks" series from the Jets' training camp last summer. It has since spilled onto the pages of his recently released book, which earned him a spot on David Letterman's television couch Monday night.
There are close media observers of Ryan who say that he isn't nearly as forthcoming as his reputation suggests, pointing out that he has mastered the art of occasionally sidestepping questions in a clever enough way that doesn't make reporters feel they're being stonewalled.
I'm OK with that. There are reasons, competitive and otherwise, that a coach can't and shouldn't reveal everything.
What Ryan always does, however, is make covering him and his team fun. His approach reminds us that, current labor strife and legal skirmishes notwithstanding, football doesn't always have to feel like a cold-hearted and cut-throat business.
It's fair to say that not all coaches are the same. Not everyone has the personality to carry off Ryan's shtick. But in other cases, personalities are suppressed out of fear that showing too much of them can threaten jobs that offer minimal security to begin with. Ryan never worried about that from the moment the Jets hired him.
And with both of his first two seasons ending in the AFC Championship Game, he is proof that there is more than one way to function in a world of high paranoia.