DENVER - The 2011 Broncos were 1-4 when Tim Tebow made his first start for them this season. Eight games later, they are 8-5.The 2001 Patriots were 0-2 when Tom Brady made his first career start. After Week 13, they were 8-5. While Tebowmania is a national phenomenon, people in New England only need to look back a decade to realize the situation happened here first. An overlookedquarterback taking over a lagging team going nowhere and - by dint of his charisma, execution and smarts - turning it into a winner.
"You can't say enough about that kid. He has a tremendous amount of confidence. He has led this team. Maybe he doesn't have the most impressive statistics, but it doesn't matter. The kid knows how to win. He knows how to motivate other players. My hat is off to the guy."
That was Patriots wide receiver David Patten in 2001 after the Patriots won the Super Bowl. And it's just about the same party line being spouted on Tebow right now.
As Brady and the Patriots continued to roll up wins in 2001, his success actually became a controversy. Having gotten the chance to start because of Drew Bledsoe's severed artery suffered in Week 2 of that season, people believed Bledsoe was getting a raw deal. And the rush was on to discredit Brady's success as beginner's luck and talk about how he was running a dumbed-down offense that didn't reveal his weak arm.
But the team-wide confidence Brady seemed to somehow imbue an ailing organization with was palpable.
"We discovered how fierce of a competitor he is," Lawyer Milloy said before the 2002 season. "I'll never forget the time I spent with him in Pittsburgh before the championship game. We had dinner and just really had a chance to bond, to talk like we never had before. "Well, I walked away from that meal thinking, 'As long as he's leading us on offense and I'm leading the defense, we are going to be OK for a while.' "
Broncos coach John Fox won't try to pin down his quarterback's ability to raise his teammates' level of play, but he says it there.
Its hard to define," said Fox. "Theres no question that he has that spirit and that spark and the trusting of his teammates. To say its all him, I dont know that it would be fair, either, but hes a part of it. Theres no doubt.
Troy Brown was Brady's No. 1 receiver in 2001 and he's fascinated by Tebow's rise.
"We can talk about Denver and their playing sucky opponents . . . whateverTim Tebowhas said or speeches he's made, there's something about him right now that has this team believing," said Brown.
Similar to Brady?
"The same feeling," Brown insists. "Tom was always a confident guy. I remember talking with (fellow receiver Vincent Brisby) and Tom would interact with starting receivers and ask what we expected. At the time he was a third team guy and he was acting like he was playing tomorrow. This wasat OTAsand minicamps. You kind of saw something different about the guy. You'd think, 'This guy looks about 150 pounds. He's frail, thin but his compete level is through the roof.'
"Having Tom gave us that spark the way Tebow is having out in Denver. Some people have that in them to make people want to rally around them."