An disappointing tour of New Zealand has tarnished England's reputation on and off the field, the latest chapter in a period of underperformance dating back to 2004.
Last autumn's surprise appearance in the World Cup final has been the only highlight since Johnson lifted the Webb Ellis trophy in 2003, and the revered former captain has returned in the guise of team manager to oversee the revival.
To assist him, a new agreement with the 12 Premiership clubs comes into effect today - giving unprecedented access to players.
Members of the senior England squad can now be away for up to 14 weeks of the season in uninterrupted blocks, with the clubs receiving £146,250 per man in compensation.
A daunting autumn schedule that features fixtures against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand awaits. But Johnson has detected a determination to succeed that spans all levels of the game.
"This is a new era for English rugby, with the agreement between the clubs and RFU coming into effect," he said.
"It's an exciting time. I've spoken to all the directors of rugby already and will be meeting with them over the next month.
"They're positive and excited about the future. The mood has become 'let's get this thing going'.
"Everyone knows we need a strong Premiership, and the whole of rugby needs England to be playing well to establish a feel-good factor.
"Both sides need each other, and I can sense everyone wants to make this work."
Johnson marked his first day as England's new supremo by unveiling an exciting 32-strong Elite Player Squad that he claims points to a healthy future.
Wasps centre Riki Flutey, who qualifies in September on residency grounds, and Leicester duo Jordan Crane and Dan Hipkiss are among the players who will meet for training in August.
Johnson also displayed a ruthless streak by announcing two headline casualties, with World Cup winners Mike Tindall and Ben Kay relegated to the Saxons squad.
Neither player excelled in New Zealand - Tindall was particularly disappointing - while Johnson had no compunction in including former New Zealand Maori international Flutey.
Back rows Nick Easter and Joe Worsley also found themselves in the Saxons squad, while Charlie Hodgson was jettisoned completely following his All Black horror show.
"We have a good squad of players. We face a very tough autumn series, and there is no hiding place," said Johnson.
"Riki Flutey has had a fantastic year and he's there on merit as a player.
"In the world of rugby, most teams have guys who are not born in that country.
"It's what they do on and off the field for that team that earns them respect, not where they're born or what their passport says.
"The exclusion of Tindall and Kay is not a reflection of their performances in New Zealand."