Saturday, March 9, 2019

Cedrick Hardman—Another Fine Pass Rusher Gone Too Soon

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
A week ago Jack Gregory, a 100-sack career player passed away and today the news hit that Cedrick Hardman is gone, too. Hardman also had over 100 sacks in his career (121½). Hardman passed away March 8, 2019, at the age of 70.

Hardman was drafted out of North Texas University by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1st round (9th overall) of the 1970 NFL Draft. He was a standout at North Texas, being named to their athletics Hall of Fame and was named to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Centennial Team, and was named to the North Texas All-Century team as well.

He began his career as a designated pass rusher and a rotational player on the 49ers defensive line, but late in his rookie season secured a starting spot. He was very effective as a pass rusher right away in the NFL but his run defense did lack some. One of his 49er coaches, Mike Giddings, said that they "held a party for Ced after he closed his first trap. The party was in 1972, his third season".

Nonetheless, he was a key player for the good 1970s 49er teams that won the NFC West from 1970-72, making the Oakland Tribune's All-Rookie team in 1970 and in 1971 he was Second-team All-Pro while leading the NFL (unofficially) with 18 sacks.

Additionally, Paul Zimmerman named him to his personal New York Post All-Pro Team in 1971 and named him to his personal All-Decade Team for the 1970s. Hardman ended his 49er career with 107.0 sacks and that coincided with the decade of 1970-79 and that 107 sack total was, according to PFJ, the most of any player in the 1970s.
He had 14 sacks in 1975, among the NFL leaders (again, unofficially) and was Second-team All-Pro and went to his second Pro Bowl. But thhat was really it as 'honors' go, 1971 and 1975. He was honorable mention a few times and made some lesser-known All-Pro teams (see below) but it is amazing that someone with his stats was esstentially a two-time 'All-Star'.

Hardman was a flamboyant type, he drove a Caddilac with the personalized plate of "NASTY" and wore the 'mod' clothes of the 1970s era. He reportedly spent much of his rookie salary on his wardrobe which eventually included a "$450 black and white leather suit with fringe on top and on the sides and a 12-inch peace symbol on the front".
From 1970-75 Hardman played in the 'Flex' defense, implemented by Tom Landry disciple Dick Nolan and as such was hampered some in the pass rush, like the Cowboys linemen were. Often on running downs, they had to line up a half-yard or more off the ball and if the opponent happened to pass it put the defensive linemen in a more difficult situation than if they had played a more usual defensive scheme.

His defensive line coach Paul Wiggin said "our concept of defense there is no place for a one-man show. This puts a restriction on guys who want to blow in the backfield on every play". Still, in his six seasons in the Flex scheme, he totaled 67 sacks.

In 1976 the scheme changed with Monte Clark as head coach and Floyd Peters as the defensive line coach. They installed what was an 'up the field' philosophy or what could be termed a "Jet" scheme and in it Hardman thrived when healthy. From 1976-78 he had 36.5 sacks yet was not able to garner much All-Pro or All-NFC support. (It should be noted the 49ers 'Gold Rush' recorded 61 sacks in 1976, best in the NFL and that the scheme helped Tommy Hart become an All-Pro that year as well as Cleveland Elam the following year).

His line coach, Earl Leggett said in midseason, 1978, "Cedrick's doing a helluva job for us. It's an accumulation of things, individual effort, he gives us leadership".

Legget added—

In 1979 Hardman played through a bad ankle injury in what he said was "a year he shouldn't have tried to play". He gutted it out for new coach Bill Walsh but logged just 3½ sacks by far his lowest NFL total.
In May 1980, Walsh traded Hardman to the raiders for a fifth and six round picks and with the Raiders he found a new role or an old role depending on how one defines it. He was the Raiders right end in sub (nickel/dime) packages just as he was for the majority of 1970 for the 49ers. He was the first designated pass rusher to earn a Super Bowl ring (a year before Fred Dean did it for the 49ers) and he led the Raiders with 9½ sacks.

Hardman returned to that role in 1981 and that ended his NFL career. He returned to pro football in 1983 as a starting right defensive end for the Oakland Invaders of the USFL and led that squad with eight sacks. Hardman could seemingly roll out of bed and rush the passer, which is what Hardman once termed "the main reason for living the first 13 years of my adult life".

Hardman, at 6-3, 255, and a 4.8 or so 40-yard dash but a very quick 'get off', would likely be a high draft pick now as an edge rusher and that cannot be said of all the players 40-50 years ago but the way the NFL game is played now, Hardman, with his skill set, would fit having enough size and speed to compete. Proscout, Inc. said this, "(P)erhaps no DE had his upfield burst of speed. Made him ‘trappable’ early in career but his ‘eyes lit up’ when 49ers put an opponent in 3rd and long”. Essentially those comments confirm that he was a rush-the-passer first kind of player, but since he did that so well, he was a valuable player.

Hardman dabbled in acting during and after his career, but he also coached. He was a head coach a Laguna Beach High School but that was derailed when Hardman was arrested for cocaine possession, something that haunted Hardman.
In Stir Crazy with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor



Shots from 1972's "The Candidate" Starring Robert Redford
In 1990 he got a second-chance when George Allen hired him as a volunteer coach for Long Beach State University. Allen said at the time "I wanted to help him get over the hump because I know he's a good man".

Yes, he was.

Career Stats:

Complete Honors:
1970s All-Decade Team (Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman)

Major All-Pro Squads:
1971 Second-team All-Pro (PFWA); Pro Bowl
1975 Second-team All-Pro (NEA); Pro Bowl

Minor All-Pro Squads:
1971 First-team All-Pro (Paul Zimmerman—New York Post)
1972 Second-team All-Pro (Football News)
1975 First-team All-Pro (Cliff Christl—Green Bay Press-Gazette)
1976 First-team All-Pro (George Allen—Sport Magazine)

Major All-Conference Squads:
1971 Second-team All-NFC (UPI)
1972 Honorable mention All-NFC (UPI)
1975 First-team All-NFC (SN)
1976 Honorable mention All-NFC (UPI)
1977 Honorable mention All-NFC (UPI)

7 comments:

  1. Rip big man.

    JT, how would Hardman comp to Dwight Freeney?

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  2. taller, not as athletic. Compares more to maybe Robert Mathis, but on right side.

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  3. Thanks for doing these, John. Great read, great history -- it is valued.

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  4. An amazing career.... thanks for sharing.

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  5. In regards to Hardman's relative lack of honors, do you think its because sacks weren't as highly regarded? Or the sack numbers weren't as available?

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    1. I think it was because it was known he wasn't a complete player (didn't play run well) and when he had his best years, other players were better...a lot of HOF DEs in the 1970s

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