As most of you know by now, Donovan McNabb and the Washington Redskins will travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles on Sunday. Of course, this will be an emotional game for McNabb, the former Eagles star, as he does battle with Philadelphia coach Andy Reid and his old franchise. Meanwhile, Michael Vick seized the Eagles’ quarterback job from Kevin Kolb, who was slated to be the heir to McNabb. But I am not here to deal with the emotion and hype of the game. Instead, let’s break down McNabb versus Vick.
These two have a lot of similarities. They are superb athletes with rare physical gifts for the position. They are getting another opportunity to lead a second franchise. And they have been quite inconsistent with aspects of their games.
Before we break down these two, a few observations: Vick has done fine work behind center in 2010. But he has done it against some of the worst secondaries (Detroit and Jacksonville) in the league and against a Green Bay team that did not prepare for his unique skill set. Not to mention that Green Bay’s pass defense could be its biggest weakness. Also, while both offensive lines have plenty of questions, clearly Vick has better weapons surrounding him than McNabb has in Washington.
Durability is a huge concern with McNabb and Vick has started 16 games only once in his career. That can’t be overlooked. Nor can the fact that neither quarterback has ever thrown more than 13 interceptions in a season. That is very impressive, and McNabb’s ball security in particular is fantastic, as shown by his overwhelming 218-101 TD/INT ratio. Now, let’s break it down.
Arm strength: Both players are gifted in this department. McNabb is an excellent deep-ball thrower and can drive the ball outside the numbers down the field with velocity. He can make any throw asked of him and excel in poor weather conditions. He’s also exceptional at throwing the ball with velocity when his feet are not properly set and from less-than-ideal body positions. Vick, a left-hander, isn’t much different. He has great zip on his passes and can do very close to what McNabb can with his arm. But McNabb wins this one by a hair because he is the stronger player throughout his body, which is clearly reflected in his throwing. Edge: McNabb.
Accuracy: It hasn’t really arisen yet in 2010, but Vick is not an accurate passer. Sure, he might be improved, but he still will spray the ball over the field at times. Actually, McNabb isn’t much better in this regard, but he has been more consistent with his accuracy than Vick over a long period of time. But McNabb can be maddening, blatantly missing open targets, and rarely does he hit his man in stride, which is why he was shipped out of Philadelphia. Edge: McNabb.
Mobility: As a runner with the football in his hands, Vick could be the best who has ever lived at the quarterback position. Well, he is at least the best I have seen. His 7.2 career yards per rush is tremendous, as are his highlights as a ball carrier. Vick is a rare playmaker. McNabb was great in this capacity early in his career, but now is merely well above average. However, there is more to mobility than being a runner. Vick takes an extraordinary number of hits, often in the pocket. He can elude the rush and buy time extremely well, but McNabb is much better at staying in the pocket and making subtle movements to keep the play alive, as a quarterback must do. Vick gets the nod here, but not by as much as many would think. Edge: Vick.
Poise: McNabb got the Eagles to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl, but couldn’t get Philadelphia a title. Does that mean he shows poise to get there or that he doesn’t when the stakes are highest? Probably a little of both. McNabb has never been a quick decision-maker and does his worst work in the red zone. Vick is a cool customer. He seems to thrive under pressure. Winning isn’t the only way to judge a quarterback, but McNabb has done that better than Vick. For now, it goes to McNabb, but 2010 could sway my vote. Edge: McNabb.
Vision: Vick has gotten much better in this regard this season. He has vastly improved on keeping his downfield focus when scrambling behind the line of scrimmage and making plays with his legs. He also has done a much better job of going to his secondary reads. Still, no one is going to confuse Vick with Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in this category. McNabb does a much better job than Vick of standing tall in the pocket and surveying the field. Edge: McNabb.
Overall: Over the past few seasons, I assure you that I have been lower on McNabb than most scouts. I have ranked McNabb outside the top 10 quarterbacks in the league. He has warts that tend not to get talked about enough. When McNabb is behind center, the offense is too reliant on big plays rather than consistent offense. Philadelphia surely felt the same way when it decided to trade him to its division rival. But McNabb gets the edge here. His body of work is just much more impressive and it doesn’t appear that his game is dropping off in the short term. In short, I just trust McNabb more than Vick. But I also am very intrigued with Philadelphia's new starting quarterback. Edge: McNabb.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.