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Sports This Morning
Breaking down Super Bowl, superstar quarterbacks
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Super Bowl is always about quarterbacks. No matter how good a team's defense is or how well a team runs the ball, the guys throwing the passes almost always decide who wins.

Super Bowl XXXIX should be no different. The Philadelphia Eagles will trot out Donovan McNabb while the New England Patriots counter with Tom Brady, already a two-time Super Bowl MVP in his young career.

Tom Brady gets points for his pocket presence and ability to stand in the face of a rush ...
Tom Brady gets points for his pocket presence and ability to stand in the face of a rush ... (AP)

Brady is a pocket passer in the truest sense; his uncanny ability to make throws in the face of pressure -- on the field and in his head -- has made him one of the game's best.

McNabb is the modern quarterback, a guy who can kill you with his legs and his arm. He has developed into a solid pocket passer after running far too much early in his career.

Both men have a chance to make history. McNabb can become the second black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and Brady can become the second three-time MVP, joining Joe Montana.

McNabb and Brady each has distinct styles of getting the job done, which is why this pairing is so intriguing.

To help break down the two players, we enlisted the help of a league personnel director and Jaguars safety Deon Grant. As a member of the Carolina Panthers last year, Grant faced both men. He faced McNabb in the NFC Championship Game, then got Brady two weeks later in the Super Bowl, so he knows what to expect from these two in critical situations.

"Those guys are both great players," Grant said. "Both of those defenses will have their hands full."

Come Super Sunday, isn't that always the way with quarterbacks? Now here's a break down of the two starters in eight key categories:


Personnel director: Brady is a career 61 percent passer where McNabb is at 59 percent. This was McNabb's first season over 60 percent, while this was Brady's fourth straight season at that number. Brady can deliver with touch and accuracy in all areas of the passing game. His touch on screens and crossing routes is outstanding. We saw an example of his ability to throw the ball deep with some accuracy in the AFC Championship. Brady is pinpoint on sideline routes and tight passes in the red zone. McNabb shows some of the same ability with screens and some red zone passing. McNabb is not as accurate on crossing routes and some sideline routes. Brady's receivers do not have to work for the football as much as McNabb's do. The one area where McNabb has greatly improved has been his ability to throw the deep ball and be accurate with it. With all being said, Brady is more accurate and overall more consistent than an improving McNabb.

Grant: I have to say it's equal for those two. They both put the ball on the numbers when it's needed. Aside from T.O, Brady has better receivers, so that helps his accuracy look better. He's good, but Donovan is good, too.

Arm strength

Personnel director: Have to give the edge to McNabb here. The ball seems to explode off his hand. When he wants to really crank it up there is some violence in his delivery. McNabb's ball can really get there in a hurry because of his physical makeup. Brady can be deceptive because he is so smooth. When Brady wears his gloves during the winter months, he looks like he loses a little power but that is not to say that he doesn't still have good arm strength. I have seen both players make huge throws moving to their left and throwing the ball down the field for big gains.

Grant: I'd have to say McNabb's arm strength is better. I have seen him throw it the whole field. Brady has a good arm, too, but McNabb's is a little stronger.

Pocket presence

Personnel director: Wow. This is a tough call. During the regular season McNabb took 32 sacks in 469 attempts, while Brady took 26 in 474 attempts. Both have great feel for what is going on around them. McNabb has become more of a pocket quarterback and less of a runner. Brady will step up in the teeth of the rush and deliver the football. Both can buy time with their feet but McNabb is clearly the better runner and more of a threat. Both can make plays under fire but if I had to choose one, I will give Brady a slight edge.

Grant: That's Brady. Brady hurt us as far as moving around in the pocket. Our ends got up the field and Kris Jenkins and Brentson Buckner got push in the middle. But when Brady dropped to throw, instead of stepping up he would slide to the side to stay away from those two big guys. That was as perfect pocket presence as I've seen from a quarterback. He didn't allow himself to be sacked. He finds a way.

Deep ball

Personnel director: McNabb is very underrated here in my view but he is just not in the same class as Brady. Rarely do you see Brady overthrow a deep receiver. He can hit the receiver in stride and with perfect accuracy. Game after game, he has proven he can kill you with this skill.

Grant: I'm going to say they're equal. You see them both throw it right on the money. I've seen McNabb throw a perfect deep ball to Todd Pinkston only to see him alligator-arm it. But both guys can throw the deep ball.

Athletic ability

Personnel director: Brady is not in the same class as McNabb in this area. McNabb's ability to avoid the rush and make something out of nothing is impressive. His open-field running skills are better than some starting running backs in this league.

Grant: This one I have to give to McNabb. When Michael Vick runs, he goes across the line. When McNabb runs he goes sideline-to-sideline and stays behind the line of scrimmage and makes a play. He definitely gets the edge in terms of athletic ability.

Reading coverage

Personnel director: This is something that McNabb has really had to work at. Early in his career, he was poor and the coaching staff took measures to make him better at it. There is still some "sandlot" in the way McNabb plays, but to his credit he has become better at knowing where to go with the football. You can't confuse him like you once could. Brady was born with this skill. He understands protections and he knows exactly where he needs to go with the football. He is a hard guy to fool. You rarely see him force a bad pass or make a mistake because he didn't know what to do. It is impressive to watch Brady carve up a defense with patient throws and run checks. He can get his team in the right situation 95 percent of the time.

Grant: I'd have to give that to Brady because all the Patriots do is study and it's obvious he does his share. Brady has a better grasp of what the defense is doing. So he gets the edge.


Personnel director: McNabb has had to show more leadership in the playoffs with the loss of Owens and he has responded to the challenge with a great deal of resolve. Brady has led his club to their third Super Bowl in four years. Both of these quarterbacks have the total faith and commitment of their teammates. I think that they are both outstanding leaders and I would be hard pressed to select one over the other. I would love to have one of them on my team.

Grant: I'd have to give that to McNabb. He's got a lot of young players and he has them in the Super Bowl. Brady's guys are veteran players. They've been there. They've won two of the last three and been to three of the last four. They really don't need leadership. They've been together for years. McNabb gets it because his team has so many young guys and they need the leadership more.

Clutch ability

Personnel director: Tom Brady might go down as one of the all-time great clutch players in NFL history (no disrespect to Joe Montana or John Elway). When the game is on the line, give me Tom Brady over any other quarterback in the league (no disrespect to Peyton Manning). If you give him a chance to win a game at the end, there is a darn good chance that it is going to get done. History has proven that.

Grant: I haven't seen McNabb panic. And we know what Brady can do in the clutch. I think he has more weapons than McNabb, so it's a little easier for him. If both of them had the same weapons on the field, I'd rather face Brady. It's crazy to say that because he has won two Super Bowls and McNabb hasn't won one, but I just think if all things were equal McNabb would be the choice.

Who is better and why?

Personnel director: We finally have a Super Bowl where we don't have a "caretaker" as one of the team's quarterbacks. We have two superstars. One was a top-five selection; the other was an afterthought in the sixth round. Both have arrived at this game much the same way. They show the traits necessary to be top-flight quarterbacks in this league. Who is better and why? Good question. When you add up the totals of the categories you come up with this: Brady is more accurate, he is better in the pocket (slightly), he throws a better deep ball, he reads coverages better, and, most importantly, he is clutch. McNabb has better arm strength and is a better athlete. I thought that both were outstanding leaders and could not select one over the other. In my opinion, Tom Brady would be my choice as the quarterback that I would like to have on my club over Donovan McNabb.

Grant: After hearing what I just said in answering the last question, I'm going to go with Brady. He has won the championships. He gets all the credit for that and this is all about winning championships and he has two already.

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