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Fan-Demonium: Tale Of Three QBs

Posted Jul 12, 2012


Eagles fans have been very lucky in regard to watching some of the most exciting quarterbacks in the NFL over the past couple of decades. Randall Cunningham was once dubbed "The Ultimate Weapon" by Sports Illustrated. Donovan McNabb was the second overall pick of the 1999 NFL Draft and proved to be every bit the franchise quarterback that the team expected. Michael Vick is the best redemption story in the last few years and is back to being an absolutely electric player.

It occurred to me that it might be interesting to compare the players. How do they rate against each other? Who is best in certain categories? Who is the best overall, if you can really determine that? Let's give it a shot.

Accuracy: Michael Vick

The first place to start is with passing skills. The most important aspect of passing is accuracy. I think Vick gets the nod in this category. He's not always consistent, but when he sets his feet, Vick can deliver lasers. He's able to put the ball right on the money. Remember, we're not talking about completion percentage. The goal here is for the passer to get the ball to the receiver, but also to put it in the right spot. You want to lead receivers on some routes. There are other times to put the ball back a bit. After Vick, Cunningham should come next and McNabb in the bottom spot.

Arm Strength: Michael Vick

Arm strength is overrated, but is still worth discussing. All three players have very strong arms. McNabb could gun the ball to the outside or down the field, but he still is a notch behind the other two. Choosing between Cunningham and Vick is really hard. You have to think about the two signature plays.

For Cunningham, his ultimate arm strength highlight came in a 1990 game at Buffalo. Cunningham dropped back into the end zone. He was heavily pressured and moved to his left. He was never able to really set his feet, but fired the ball downfield to Fred Barnett. The pass was about four yards deep in the end zone and Barnett caught it at about the Bills’ 46-yard line. That is approximately 58 yards in the air. Barnett ran the ball in for a 95-yard touchdown.

Vick's signature play came in the 2010 romp over Washington on Monday night. He opened the game by hitting DeSean Jackson for an 88-yard touchdown. Vick dropped back to the 4-yard line when he threw. Jackson caught the ball at the Washington 33-yard line. That pass traveled 63 yards in the air. The difference is that Vick had a clean pocket and could set his feet. Still, how the heck do you choose between these two guys? I'm going with Vick because I think he's got better velocity on his intermediate throws. The funny thing about Cunningham is that he had an unorthodox motion where it looked like he was slinging the ball more than throwing it.

Speed: Michael Vick

Now let's move to the athletic side of things. Vick is easily the fastest. For my money, he's the fastest quarterback I've ever seen play. That may change with Robert Griffin III down in Washington, but Vick's got the crown for now.


Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

Elusiveness: Randall Cunningham

Trying to pick the most elusive of the group is another tough task. McNabb was a big guy at the end of his career, but if you go back and re-watch some 2000 highlights he definitely had some Houdini moments. Vick continually drives defenders crazy. I think you have to go with Cunningham in this, though. Go back to the Buffalo play. Bruce Smith had a clean shot at him in the end zone and missed. Cunningham ducked and got by the best AFC pass rusher of all time. Cunningham had a great play against the Giants when he was able to move and then slide off the hit of a linebacker and fire a short touchdown pass. His highlights are freakish.

Strength: Donovan McNabb

When it comes to strength, McNabb is the runaway winner. Vick and Cunningham have skinny builds, but are deceptively strong. McNabb bulked up over time and became really hard to bring down even when defenders got their hands on him. He shrugged off tacklers and looked for the next receiver. We see this out of Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton now, but McNabb was good at it going back a long time ago.

Toughness: Donovan McNabb

Judging the quarterbacks in terms of physical toughness is really hard. McNabb played through injuries and took his share of beatings. Vick is loved by his teammates in part because he sells out on every play and doesn't complain when he's banged up. I'll give McNabb the edge here because of his 2002 game when he played on a broken leg and led the Eagles to a win over the Cardinals. He played with a bad hand in 2003. He had a bruised chest and sports hernia in 2005. Cunningham is a distant third in this discussion.

Clutch Play: Donovan McNabb

Who was the most clutch? This is very tough. Cunningham had the most late game success (based on my informal research). McNabb was good in this area early in his career, but that faded as the years went by. Vick just hasn't had enough chances to compare to the other two. Now, if you define clutch play as winning big games, McNabb is the runaway winner. Cunningham disappeared in the playoffs. McNabb helped lead the Eagles to a lot of postseason success.

Intangibles: Donovan McNabb/Michael Vick

Judging the guys based on intangibles is another interesting test. We'll consider this work ethic, leadership, and things like that. Cunningham is a distant third. Can you go lower? Choosing between McNabb and Vick is tough, because of circumstances. Early in his career, McNabb was very high in this area. Because McNabb stayed with the same team for so long, I think he got a bit complacent. That led to some sloppiness in his last couple of years. Vick came to the Eagles when he was at rock bottom. He has been terrific since getting here, both on and off the field. The players love him. He works hard. The test for Vick is to see if he can keep this up. He's married now. He's got a big contract. It is easy to let up, even if just a bit. I can't choose between Vick and McNabb here. The circumstances just don't mesh.

Raw Talent: Michael Vick

Which guy had the most raw talent? Vick. I discussed him with fans quite a bit during his Atlanta days. I always told people that Vick is the most talented quarterback I've ever seen. Second is John Elway. Cam Newton may be changing things if he keeps up his level of play. Cunningham isn't too far behind. He had freakish ability because of his ability to run, throw and create. I'm consistently surprised at how little attention Cunningham's 1990 season gets. He threw for 3,466 yards, 30 touchdowns and ran for 942 yards. Those are staggering numbers.

The problem with Cunningham is that things came so easily for him that he didn't develop the right work ethic. He didn't appreciate just how talented he was. If Cunningham applied himself, he could have dominated the NFL for a decade. Instead, Cunningham wanted to be a star. Not just a star football player, but a star. He wanted to be Eddie Murphy or Arsenio Hall more than a Super Bowl winner. The most famous story about this is when a coach sent film home with him one night. Actual film, not video tape. The coach slipped a piece of paper in the film. If Cunningham had put the film on a projector and watched it, the paper would have fallen out. When Cunningham gave the film back to the coach, the slip of paper was still there. Cunningham said he watched it, but never did. Such a waste of talent.

There are some factors to keep in mind when comparing the players in more general terms (wins, stats, etc.). Cunningham played with a great defense, but had a terrible offensive line and poor coaching. Buddy Ryan knows less about developing quarterbacks than Charlie Manuel and Doug Collins. McNabb had a good defense, good line and lots of good coaching. He was hindered a bit early on due to mediocre skill players. Vick has coaching, blocking and skill players. He just needs the defense to step up.

It will be interesting to see what Vick does in the future. Is he here for four or five more years? Can he lead the team to a Super Bowl? At this point, it would just be nice to get back to the NFC title game and having some home playoff games. The last playoff win was 2008 and that seems like ages ago.

Time Machine: A Look Back At The 1992 Team

If you enjoy retrospective pieces, you can find a good one I wrote in the Eagles Almanac. I wrote about the 20th anniversary of the 1992 team, the year the Eagles played without Jerome Brown. That was a magical season, with some serious ups and downs. I loved that team and writing about it was a lot of fun.

The Eagles Almanac is a project between a regular group of Eagles writers and bloggers to cover 2011 and preview 2012. It has a good combination of stories, data, and opinions. You can download a PDF copy of the Eagles Almanac for just $4.99. So far the reader reviews have been great. This isn't a typical preseason magazine that is outdated by the time it hits the newsstand. We made sure that Eagles Almanac would be relevant in June, July, August and into the season.

Check it out.

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