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Super Bowl 2012 - Breaking down Tom Brady and Eli Manning

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Prior to the 2011 NFL regular season, Eli Manning claimed that he was in that elite category with Tom Brady as a professional quarterback. While many snickered and poked fun at Manning, who's Super Bowl victory is often credited more to his defense and David Tyree despite him winning the MVP, I initially felt it was a fair statement.

Since then, Manning has done nothing to change my opinion of him.

With Irishcentral debating which quarterback you would prefer, here is a quick breakdown of the two players.

Leadership:

Tom Brady: 10/10
Brady is famously a fearsome leader in the lockerroom. His outbursts demanding the best from his teammates on the sideline have received a lot of attention in the past. It doesn't matter if the team are way ahead or in the midst of a shootout, Brady expects 100 percent from everyone around him and isn't too shy to point out if those around him aren't putting their best effort forward.

Eli Manning: 9/10
Manning is a different type of leader to Brady. He isn't the biggest talker in the locker-room but instead leads by example. Eli undoubtedly has the respect of the locker-room and the trust of the coaching staff.

Accuracy:

Tom Brady: 9.5/10
Brady can make every single throw in the playbook. His consistency in hitting receivers in stride is astounding. However, accuracy is not just about completing passes, it is also about ball placement. Ball placement is the deciding factor between a ball that is competed for between receiver and cornerback, and a ball that gives the corner no chance of interception.

When a quarterback, hits his "receiver in stride," that is a reference to ball placement that allows receivers to not slow down. It can be the difference between dropped passes and 80 yard sprints to the endzone.

Brady's accuracy, and ball placement, is almost perfect. His consistency in both facets of the game is easily elite, however Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees both consistently throw to perfect spots better than the Patriots player. For that reason, he cannot be a 10. It's the definition of splitting hairs however.

Eli Manning: 8/10
While he can make every throw in the playbook, just like Brady, he is not asked to consistently throw short routes. The Giants offense is more about taking off chunks of yardage on Manning's arm. Manning excels in giving his receivers every chance to come away with the football on any given play.

His anticipation, despite some misunderstandings with Victor Cruz this season which is more due to Cruz being a new addition to the offense, is stellar and allows him to throw receivers open on a regular basis despite them running difficult routes deep down the field.

Manning did throw 25 interceptions last season, and most of those interceptions were a result of tipped passes or poor decisions. Accuracy is not just about the player's completion percentage, decision making and placement is vital also. The Giants' offense, by design, plays to Manning's qualities and allows him to show off his strengths within the system.

Awareness:

Tom Brady: 10/10
An NFL season without Brett Favre, meant that Tom Brady became the most experienced signal caller in the league. An NFL season without Peyton Manning, meant that Brady became the best in the league at diagnosing defenses.

One slight slip in defensive integrity will almost always be taken advantage of by Brady. His work-rate off the field allows him to understand defensive tendencies and formations better than anyone else who was active last season.

Eli Manning: 8/10
Manning has the intelligence and awareness of an NFL veteran. He isn't spectacular at reading defenses but understands how to go through his progressions quickly and is more than capable at diagnosing blitzes and adjusting pass protection.

Despite a lot of changeover on the offensive line this year, Manning's pass protection has been solid. His leadership and awareness working with the new group was evident throughout the season.

Footwork:

Tom Brady: 7/10
Brady did show off his ability to get into the endzone against the Ravens but overall, his mobility and ability to extend plays simply doesn't exist. He is excellent at sneaking the ball for crucial yardage but that is down to his awareness opposed to his athleticism.

Brady is often referred to as a system quarterback because of his inability to throw when moved from his spot. The Patriots have invested heavily on their offensive line over the years as pressure up the middle prevents Brady from being effective.

His footwork and ability to move in the pocket is stellar, but he cannot throw on the move consistently. If Brady's feet aren't set beneath him, he regularly struggles to hit his receiver. Fortunately for the Patriots, it is a rarity that teams managed to get in his face through a combination of good pass protection and quick passes.

Eli Manning: 9/10
He may not be Ben Roethlisberger or Michael Vick, but Eli Manning can extend plays just about as well as anyone in the NFL. His awareness to avoid rushers or move to spots that will afford him just enough time to get rid of the football is startling.

Many will remember the David Tyree reception the last time these teams met in the Super Bowl and Manning's miraculous escape from the clutches of the rushers. He doesn't have the frame to consistently throw with defenders dragging him down, a la Roethlisberger, nor does he have the speed of Vick, however his ability to hit receivers while moving and throw from uncomfortable positions sets him apart from most quarterbacks.

Clutch:

Tom Brady: 10/10

Eli Manning: 10/10

You may not be right, but you could definitely argue that both of these players are the most clutch at the position in the NFL. Both have already won Super Bowls, and they are the only two former Super Bowl MVPs to face off against each other, while Brady has been to four and Manning has put in clutch performances throughout this year's playoffs and regular season. 

Tweeting @Cianaf

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