There will never be an NFL dynasty like Bill Belichick and Tom Brady's Patriots. But if you ask Terrell Davis, New England didn't necessarily invent its famed model of success.
The Hall of Fame running back, who won back-to-back Super Bowls with Denver in 1997 and 1998, called the late-90s Broncos "the Patriots before the Patriots," pointing out that his teams had many of the characteristics that helped Belichick's Patriots dominate over the next two decades.
"We had really, really good players," Davis told CBS Sports' Bryan DeArdo. "We had outstanding coaching. We had a solid system. We had a combination of really unselfish guys who played for each other who didn't really care who got the credit, and that's rare. And we had a singular focus.
"We were the Patriots before the Patriots. They talk about the 'Patriot Way,' well we had the 'Bronco Way.' We had players who didn't buy into that, and (head coach) Mike (Shanahan) moved them out of the locker room."
There are some similarities between the late-90s Broncos and the early-2000s Patriots. Star quarterbacks John Elway and Tom Brady were surrounded by late-round picks who were overlooked by other teams, from Davis (sixth round), Rod Smith (undrafted) and Shannon Sharpe (seventh round) to Troy Brown (eighth round), Rodney Harrison (fifth-round pick cut by Chargers) and later Julian Edelman (seventh round). Even as those players blossomed into stars, the team's success always came first.
Belichick also has a close relationship with Shanahan, so it's certainly possible that when the Patriots coach landed the New England job in 2000, he took note of how Shanahan won back-to-back championships in Denver.
"Mike was phenomenal," Davis said. "He was a teacher. The way he prepared us for games. The way he allowed us to have input and to be able to create the environment for training, for recovery, nutrition, all that stuff."
Belichick found immediate success with the "Patriot Way" in New England, winning three Super Bowls in his first five seasons as the Patriots became the first team to win back-to-back championships since those '90s Broncos.
The difference, of course, is that Belichick's team stayed on top for much longer. While the 1999 Broncos went 6-10 following Elway's retirement, Brady stuck around to win six Super Bowls with New England over a two-decade span -- thanks in part to a team-first culture and a brilliant coaching mind in Belichick.
Brady's trademark competitiveness also helped power the Patriots, so now that he's with the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay fans should be pleased to read this bit of bulletin board material from Davis:
"If we played in today's game, absolutely, we would have beaten the Bucs (in the Super Bowl) last year."