The Jets coach said Monday for the first time that he would have tried to bring Favre out of retirement last year to play another season in New York if the team hadn't drafted Mark Sanchez.
"There would have been some major recruiting done," Ryan said. "I can say that absolutely. And, maybe no one knows it or whatever, but I can promise you that's how I was feeling."
Favre briefly retired after playing with New York in 2008, when he injured his shoulder down the stretch and slumped. The Jets missed the playoffs after an 8-3 start, and it cost coach Eric Mangini his job.
After Ryan was hired as coach, he hoped Favre would stick around — despite the quarterback's late-season struggles.
"You look at the body of work, he was impressive," Ryan said. "He led the team to nine wins and one game out of the playoffs. He looked like Brett Favre to me."
Instead, Favre retired, was granted his release by the Jets and eventually unretired — again — and signed with Minnesota. Meanwhile, Ryan had never previously let on that he privately wanted Favre back.
"Well, I was hoping we would be able to draft Sanchez," Ryan said. "And, we did."
Ryan said he thought Favre was sincere in his desire to retire at that point, but thought he could've persuaded him to come back for another year with the Jets.
"Yeah, I do, yep," Ryan said. "Because he would have seen how sincere I was, and the kind of passion I have. I'm not going to say it's equal to his, but maybe it is. We both want to win, I know that."
Ryan has a proven track record as a recruiter since coming to New York, taking some unorthodox tactics to try to get his players. He drove to linebacker Bart Scott's house in the middle of the night to persuade him to sign last year, and flew down to Florida last month to talk with Darrelle Revis to help the tense contract negotiations.
The Jets will see Favre for the first time since he left the organization when they play the Vikings at home next Monday night.
Ryan said he "really never" talked with Favre other than the day he retired from the Jets. He said he simply told the quarterback how much he respected him.
"I think it was a tough time for him," Ryan said. "I mean, he's basically announcing his retirement from football and I wasn't going to stay on the phone with him. He doesn't know anything about me. I was just some random guy talking to him, so I kind of felt uncomfortable. I'm sure he did also."
The Jets ended up trading up in the draft a few months later and taking Sanchez with the No. 5 overall pick last year. The rookie helped lead the Jets to the AFC championship game, while Favre had one of the best seasons of career with 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions as the Vikings went to the NFC championship game.
"It worked out I'm sure for Brett and for the Jets," Ryan said. "We got a guy that's going to be the quarterback here for the next 10 years probably. And Brett Favre's a great player. Last year, those statistics, I kept saying, 'That can't be right.' I mean, the guy's a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback."
Ryan also revealed for that early in the recruiting process, the Jets were most impressed with Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman. That all changed when the team watched film and held workouts with Sanchez.
"Then it became clear," Ryan said, "that Sanchez was our guy."
Freeman ended up going to Tampa Bay with the 17th overall pick.
"We're just happy in getting Mark," Ryan said, "but that is a fact that if we never got Mark, I definitely would've tried to recruit Brett Favre."