Saturday, March 30, 2019

Defensive Players of the Week—1954: Rookie Sensations

LOOKING BACK
By TJ Troup

Am sure enjoying going back to do the research and view film of this era, the only issue for 1954 was there were so many strong candidates for some of the weeks. That said, as you are about to read; why eliminate when you can have co-defenders?

WEEK ONE
Clay Matthews
September 26th: For the first time have a tri-Defensive Players of the Week, and they are teammates. Though defensive tackle Leo Nomellini and cornerback  Rex Berry have excellent games for San Francisco, the trio are Niner teammates Hardy Brown, Clay Matthews, and rookie Jackson Brumfield.
Hardy Brown
Jackson Brumfield (86)
Watching the quality complete game film of the 41-7 victory over Washington these three men consistently invaded the pass pocket and combined for 6 sacks. An example you ask? Matthews cannot bring Scarbath down initially, then Hardy Brown quickly leaves his coverage area and rockets into the backfield to get the "sack". Brumfield from his stand-up stance at right defensive end in his first game in the league is a constant demon as a pass rusher, plays the run well, and even recovers a fumble.

WEEK TWO
October 3rd: Philadelphia opens the season with a victory over the four-time defending Eastern champion Browns, and then falls behind the Cardinals 16-0. Bucko Kilroy forces a Johnny O. fumble (recovered by Concrete Charley), and the comeback begins. The Cardinals cannot run the ball effectively against the Eagles front seven led by Kilroy.

Kilroy will at times drop back at the snap of the ball from his middle guard position into coverage(he intercepts twice), and of course, most of the time he just sheds the center's block and helps stop the run as Philadelphia scores 35 unanswered in the victory.

WEEK THREE
Paul Cameron
October 9th: The high-flying Eagles are brought to earth by their western Pennsylvania rivals 24-22. Pittsburgh now aligns in a four-man secondary with rookie Paul Cameron at left safety. Cameron runs his two interceptions 27 and 10 yards respectively and helps stop the Eagle ground attack.

Cameron will record seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries during the campaign. The result of his excellent season is being chosen for the Pro Bowl. Paul does not accept the reward and is replaced by one Frank Gifford. Paul Cameron plays just this one season in the NFL.

WEEK FOUR
Jack Butler
October 17th: Are the Steelers really contenders for the Eastern Conference crown? The only way anyone would truly believe the Black & Gold are contenders would be if they beat Cleveland—except they have never beaten the Browns in eight tries. Ahead 14-13 in the 2nd quarter right corner Jack Butler returns a Graham aerial 41 yards for a touchdown to ignite the Steelers in their 55-27 demolition of the Browns. Butler later intercepts again and has another outstanding season, yet again he is not selected for the Pro Bowl.

WEEK FIVE
Len Ford
October 24th: Len Ford continues to demonstrate he is the best right defensive end in the league as the 1-2 Browns must beat a winless Cardinal team to stay in the four team race in the eastern conference. The Cardinals can gain only 60 yards rushing as Ford and his stalwart teammates shut down the ground attack while recording three sacks. Ford also recovers a Chicago fumble in the 35-3 victory. This is the fifth time in five seasons Ford had been the retro Defensive Player of the Week.

WEEK SIX
Boby Dillon
October 30th: Green Bay under new coach Lisle Blackburn travel to Philadelphia for a Saturday night clash with Philadelphia. Adrian Burk starts to roll left and his attempted pass to halfback Jerry Williams up the left sideline is pilfered by one-eyed thief Bobby Dan Dillon. The Packers right safety dashes, weaves, and cuts back expertly on his 59-yard touchdown return in the Green Bay 37-14 victory. Dillon will earn a Pro Bowl berth for his superb season.

WEEK SEVEN
Bob Dove
November 6th & 7th: Bob Dove was a strong contributor in the Cardinals championship season of 1947, and he joined the Lions during the latter half of their quest in 1953 to again win another title. Dove knows how to win, and contribute, and in his first game as a starter in his final season in 1954 he pillages the Colt pass pocket all night as he records three sacks in the 27-3 win.
Emlen Tunnell
Emlen Tunnell has intercepted three passes in a game before his sterling performance on November 7th, yet the Giants must beat Pittsburgh to remain alive in the eastern conference race with the Eagles and Browns. New York improves to 5-2 in Jim Lee Howell's first year at the helm with the 30-6 victory. Over the years the Steelers must have hated seeing Tunnell jog onto the field, since he intercepted more Pittsburgh passes than any other player in league history. Tunnell and Dove are the co-Defensive Players of the Week.

WEEK EIGHT
LaVern Torgeson
November 14th: San Francisco has already beaten Detroit earlier in the year, yet will fall out of contention in the rematch with a loss. Down 20-0 already Tittle rolls left and is pressured by right defensive end Jim Cain. The wobbly aerial is plucked out of the air by right linebacker LaVern "Torgy" Torgeson and advanced into 49er territory. Layne then zips a pass to Girard and the Lions are on their way to a 48-7 blowout victory and another western conference crown. Torgy is our Defensive Player and Week, and later in the year is selected for his first Pro Bowl.

WEEK NINE
November 21st: Stydahar traded with the Rams for Richard Lane before the season began, and the "Night Train" continues his mastery of secondary play for Chicago. He will align at all four secondary positions during the year. The Cardinals have won just three of their last 28 games entering this contest, yet there is no doubt that when Ollie Matson is at left safety and Lane at right safety the Cardinals have the fastest duo in league history.

Lane will lead the league in interceptions in '54 with 10 (he gets one in this game), but it is the visual of him that compels me to name him player of the week. How so you ask? Billy Wells of the Skins breaks loose from deep in his own territory and is off on a record-setting run of 88 yards. Lane missed the tackle just past the line of scrimmage, but this tough Texan never gives up and takes off in hot pursuit. Lane tackles Wells just over the goal line in one of the most impressive visuals I have ever seen. Later in the game, Choo Choo Justice catches a pass up the right sideline for the 'Skins and there is no one else in the picture as Choo Choo looks like he will score easily. The "Night Train" flashes into the picture and physically throws Justice to the turf. The Chicago Cardinals win the game 38-16.

WEEK TEN
Mike McCormack
November 28th: Paul Brown traded 10 players to get 5 in return. One of the five entered the Army, but now he is in the line-up for Cleveland at middle guard. Mike McCormack has demonstrated all season that while his technique is vastly different than Bill Willis, he is just as effective. He sheds blocks, plugs holes, and can apply pressure to the pass pocket up the middle. Cleveland has rebounded after a 1-2 start and with a victory today over NYG they can still win the eastern crown. New York gains 4 yards rushing, that's correct—FOUR yards (21 attempts), and McCormack is the key man. Big Mike also recovers a fumble in the 16-7 conquest of the Giants.

WEEK ELEVEN
December 5th: After the past two woeful campaigns the Bears are once again a winning team, and defensively Clark Shaughnessy continues his mystical alignments and red dogs. Bill George has been a starter on the offensive line, yet now he is usually the left or middle linebacker, and even sometimes he has his knuckles in the dirt and shoots the gap as a defensive lineman. Bill helps limit the Cardinals to 81 yards rushing in the 29-7 victory. The Bears intercept seven passes, and Bill as a linebacker dropping into coverage pilfers two. The dawning of a new era where teams will align with four defensive lineman, and three linebackers for the bulk of a game.

WEEK TWELVE
Jim Ricca
December 12th: Brumfield & Matthews could have easily been co-Defenders of the Week as both record two sacks in the victory over Baltimore. These two stand-up defensive ends almost certainly finished one/two in the league in sacks for the year (not sure the actual totals), yet the award goes to a Washington Redskin. Washington? You mean to say a defender from the most porous defense in the league can win the award? Damn straight! Big Jim Ricca either aligns at right defensive tackle (when the 'Skins are in a 4-3) or is aligned on the center's nose as a middle guard.

Dick Modzelewski invades the Cardinal pass pocket and knocks the ball loose from Lamar McHan. Ricca scoops up the ball and trundles 25 yards for a touchdown. Washington is on their way today to a 37-20 victory. The Cardinals can gain only 78 yards rushing as Ricca plugs the middle, and later in the game recovers another Chicago fumble.

This is the fifth in a series of historical Defensive Players of the Week. Here are links to the previous four: 1950, 1951, 1952, and 1953.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Remembering Flutie Flakes

LOOKING BACK
by Jeffrey Miller


Sports memorabilia collecting is huge, with just about every major professional and college sports team having its own cache of collectibles that includes figurines, pennants, game-worn items, trading cards, game programs, posters, and on and on. In my latest literary endeavor, I am partnering with Buffalo Bills uber collector Greg Tranter to chronicle several of the items in his massive collection, which includes some 300,000 pieces of 3D items and ephemera. Though we have not yet decided on a title for the book, we have signed a contract with St. Johann Press to publish the work in the fall of 2020.

I have chosen to highlight a few of the items that we are including with stories here in the Journal. A few weeks ago I highlighted the 1971 Chein Wastebasket, but will dedicate this edition to something more familiar to the casual fan …

A box of Flutie Flakes,
signed by the man himself!






Perhaps the most recognizable of all Buffalo Bills collectibles is Flutie Flakes, a breakfast cereal inspired by Bills quarterback Doug Flutie. Flutie Flakes hit the market in October 1998 as Flutie was gaining significant popularity for his feats of derring-do and uncanny knack for eluding pass rushers and scrambling for first downs with his fiery leadership style. By sheer force of will, and--some believed--a little magic, the five-foot, ten-inch signal-caller was able to overcome the perceived height disadvantage and befuddle defenses stacked against him. In his first year with the team, Flutie earned Pro Bowl honors by completing 264 of 354 passes for 2,711 yards and 20 touchdowns, and guiding the Bills to the playoffs.

It wasn’t long before Flutie was approached by PLB Sports, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based sports marketing firm, with the idea of creating the cereal with a large portion of the profits to be donated to the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, a charitable organization created in honor of Flutie's autistic son. The foundation's goal is to promote awareness and support families affected by autism spectrum disorders.

Flutie Flakes landed on the shelves of local shopping centers in the fall of 1998 with an initial production run of 50,000 units. The cereal proved wildly successful, however, and by that December sold its one-millionth box. Even after Flutie was unceremoniously benched in favor of Rob Johnson—a move that created a raging quarterback controversy among fans and pundits—sales of Flutie Flakes continued to soar. The popularity of the cereal inspired the Flutie Flakes Chocolate Bar, which featured crumbled Flutie Flakes smothered in pure milk chocolate, and Flutie Fruities, a “healthier” gummy fruit snack.

So popular were Flutie Flakes that they eventually attained cult-like status. Boxes of the cereal began popping up on various television shows, starting with The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Flutie appeared on the program shortly after departing the Bills for the San Diego Chargers. A deluge of Flutie Flakes was dumped on the host’s head. A box of Flutie Flakes sat atop the refrigerator in Ray and Debra Barone’s kitchen for several seasons of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.

The cereal was a favorite of character Jack McPhee on the drama series Dawson’s Creek. Boxes also showed up in the opening scene of a Friends episode, and on a bookshelf in an episode of the HBO comedy series Silicon Valley. In 2005, Flutie Flakes somehow found their way into an episode of Everybody Hates Chris, despite the fact the show is set in 1982, some 16 years before the cereal was conceived.

According to PLB Sports, the product eventually sold more than three million units in six different incarnations. In 2008, the company produced a limited-edition box commemorating the tenth anniversary of the cereal’s original release. Flutie Flakes also inspired the creation of several other charitable cereals for Buffalo star athletes, including Jim Kelly’s Kelly Crunch (2002), Terrell Owens’ TOs (2009), Ryan Miller’s Kick-Save Crunch (2010), Mario Williams’ MariOs (2012), all produced by PLB Sports.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Another Day, Another Fine Edge Rusher Gone—RIP Ordell Braase

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
Ordell Braase, according to media reports, passed away today. Mike Klingaman wrote in the Baltimore Sun, "Braase died Monday morning at a nursing center near his home in Bradenton, Fla. He was 87 and had battled Alzheimer’s disease since 2012".

It's been a bit distressing seeing so many rushers pass away in recent weeks—Jack Gregory, Mike Cofer, Cedrick Hardman, and others. However, in this case, Braase lived to a ripe old age, whereas the others went somewhat prematurely.
WorthPoint
Braase is a member of the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame and was a three-sport player (football, basketball, and baseball) in his college days at the University of South Dakota where he was All-North Central Conference in football and basketball two years.

He was a thin 215-pound end when the Colts drafted him in the 14th round by the Colts in the 1954 NFL draft. However, after three years in the Army, he reported to the Colts at 245 pounds and proceeded to play twelve seasons for the Baltimore Colts from 1957-68, retiring after the loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.

He was a part of the 1958 and 1959 NFL Championships of the Colts, splitting time with Don Joyce and right defensive end. He'd also get an occasional series at left defensive end giving Gino Marchetti a breather but he played much more often on the right side.

In seeing the film it was clear to us that Braase was the more able player in the late-1950s but for some reason, a heavier but slower Joyce remained the starter. Braase did take over as the starter in 1960 and was a more than able counterpart to Marchetti and then later, Bubba Smith.

Braase was never a First-team All-Pro but he was a Second-team All-Pro in 1960, 1965, 1966,  and 1967 and was a Pro Bowler in 1966 and 1967. He ended his career with at least 82½ sacks (averaged 8.7 in the decade of the 1960s) and reached double-digits in sacks in 1960, 61, 63, 64 and 66 with a high of 12½ in 1964.

In his last few years (mostly in 1968) he gave some defensive snaps to a young up-and-coming defensive end Roy Hilton, in the same process, really, as Braase went through a decade later. (Hilton passed away that past January).

Back then the best defensive ends were on the left side (and the best offensive tackles were on the right side, facing those left ends and Braase's role was as the backside pressure guy for Marchetti, playing the 'Lamar Lundy' role played for Deacon Jones or the role Clyde Simmons played for Reggie White or that Fred Dryer played for Jack Youngblood or than John Zook played for Claude Humphrey. And he was easily as effective as those right ends on that list.
Braase at KXRB 1140 AM/100.1 FM
He was was President of the NFL Players Association in the late 1960s and after his playing career, he was involved in the media, announcing Colts and later Ravens games on Radio and also hosting television shows with Hall of Famer Art Donovan often playing the 'straight man' to Donovan's comedic approach to broadcasting.

May this gentleman edge rusher rest in peace.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Mike Cofer—RIP

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney

The 1980s were a decade that made it difficult for outside linebackers to make a lot of All-Pro or Pro Bowl teams unless your name was Lawrence Taylor or Andre Tippett. Sure, others made some just maybe not as often as they otherwise would have if super-dominant players like Taylor were around. 

Mike Cofer was one of those 'backers. He did make Second-team All-Pro in 1988 and 1990 and was Second-team All-NFC as well in those years, adding in a Pro Bowl in 1988 for good measure.

He began his career was a 4-3 defensive end playing the right side as a rookie and left end as a second-year player and then when Lions joined the 3-4 revolution (one of the last teams to convert) Cofer moved to the right outside linebacker for the rest of his career.

Cofer passed away last week from complications of a rare disease called amyloidosis. Cofer was 58.

Cofer ended his career with 62.5 sacks and averaged 9½ sacks from 1986-90. He was known as a high-effort player, a hustle-type who didn't take plays off. He did suffer from injuries with four of his ten NFL seasons ending early due to various ailments. 

NFL draft guru Joel Buchsbaum thought Cofer was a bit of a reach, taken in the third round of the 1983 NFL draft but Cofer was 6-4 and 230 or so pounds but very fast, reported times were in the 4.6 and 4.7 range in the forty-yard dash. 

It was a pretty deep draft for linebackers, so Buchsbaum's feelings may have been warranted. However, the Lions felt that Cofer's skills and instincts resembled those of Fred Dean and the plans, according to media reports of the time, were to beef Cofer up to 245 pounds and play defensive end which did happen, until the aforementioned move to linebacker.

Here are Cofer's career stats:

NFL Colorizations

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney

Cliff Battles carries the ball in 1937 NFL Championship Game in 1937—

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

1953 Defensive Player of the Week: The Year of the Pass Defender

LOOKING BACK
By TJ Troup
The defensive player of the week for the seasons of 1950 through 1952 have featured quite a number of defensive lineman. Though defensive lineman and linebackers still played an integral role during 1953 there is a subtle shift in that a number of pass defenders will be featured—many of them safeties.

The overall rushing statistics are still virtually the same, and the total number of passing yards goes up just 4 yards a game per team. The biggest difference is in yards lost attempting to pass (sacks); and there is a dramatic drop-off from an average of 302 a team in 1952 to 233 in 1953.

WEEK ONE
September 27th: The Colts have returned to the league and win at home 13-9 over the Bears as Bert Rechichar intercepts three passes. He returns the thefts for 36 yards, and his 36-yard touchdown return is the difference in the game.

WEEK TWO
Len Ford, Browns defensive end
October 4th: The best defensive end in the league still has his moments; and that end is, of course, Len Ford as he again pillages a pass pocket in taking down Cardinal passers four times in the Browns 27-7 win.

WEEK THREE
Gene Brito, Redskins defensive end
October 11th: We have co-defenders of the week in left defensive end Gene Brito and left safety Don Doll. Brito has been switched to defense this year, and though he only plays when Washington is in a traditional 5-2, he sure makes an impact. Relentless, quick, and very strong for his size Brito torments every New York Giant lineman who attempts to block him.

WEEK FOUR
Don Doll played outstanding football for both the Lions and Rams, and the veteran brings his savvy to the Redskin secondary. Don intercepts 3 passes for 43 yards; including a fine 28-yard return in the 13-9 win over the Giants.

WEEK FIVE
Leo Nomellini, 49ers defensive tackle
October 18th: San Francisco is again a contender, and their defense is led by player of the week Leo Nomellini. The Bears gain just 74 yards rushing as Leo the Lion with his quickness continually destroys Chicago running plays. The Niners pull out a close one 35-28.

WEEK SIX
October 25th: Los Angeles needs to beat the Bears to stay in contention with San Francisco and Detroit. Left safety Norb Hecker pilfers two passes and returns them 24 yards. The second interception was key as Hecker intercepted on his own two-yard line as Blanda was attempting to rally the Bears.

WEEK SEVEN
November 1st: There are times the award must go to a player in a losing cause, and that is the case this week as corner Don Paul of the Cardinals steals 3 passes for 57 yards in the 23-20 loss to the Giants. Don has always been a man who could make the big play, and he is exciting to watch on either offense or defense, yet now he is much more consistent and has found a home on the defensive side of the ball as a corner for the lowly Cardinals.

WEEK EIGHT
Jack Christiansen, Lions defensive back
November 7th: Saturday evening game and the Lions with a victory over Baltimore will still be tied for first place with Los Angeles and San Francisco. Detroit earns a hard-fought 17-7 win as left safety Jack Christiansen intercepts 3 passes for 42 yards (he had a fourth taken away due to a penalty). Now in his third year, Jack has become the best pass defender in the league as he leads the league with 12 interceptions. He has now intercepted in five straight games, and his ability to diagnose plays, and range all over the field making open field tackles is impressive. Christiansen would have won Defensive Player of the Year if such an award existed in 1953.

WEEK NINE
Chuck Bednarik, Eagles linebacker
November 15th: The co-players of the week are right linebacker Chuck Bednarik of Philadelphia and Yale Lary of Detroit. Concrete Charley is by far the best right linebacker in the league and watching film of his two interceptions in the 45-14 win over Baltimore are textbook. The angles he takes on his pass drops, and the swiftness he exhibits on his returns of 41 yards, and the 26-yard touchdown demonstrates his greatness. The Lions have the best safety tandem in the league with Jack Christiansen and Lary. Yale's three timely steals(he returns them 54 yards) help Detroit hold on and defeat Green Bay 14-7.

WEEK TEN
November 22nd: Philadelphia has the best pass rush in the league, and is also strong against the run. Bucko Kilroy of the Eagles is a rock at middle guard. He helps stonewall the Cardinal rushing attack (58 yards) in the 38-0 whitewash as Philadelphia wins for the sixth straight week.

WEEK ELEVEN
Bobby Dillon, Packers defensive back
November 26th: Thanksgiving in Detroit and the Packers are determined to knock off the defending champion Lions. Right safety Bobby Dan Dillon in his second season is the most improved defender in the league. He ties the league record as he intercepts four times. He now has intercepted 9 in the past seven weeks. Dillon's range and speed serve him well until he is injured in this game as the Packers collapse in the 34-15 loss.

WEEK TWELVE
Don Paul, Rams linebacker
December 5th: For the Rams to have an outside chance to win the western division they must win on this Saturday afternoon against the Colts. Right linebacker Don Paul intercepts and recovers a fumble in the 45-2 demolition of Baltimore. Paul, as usual, is a force against the run as he leads his team to victory.

WEEK THIRTEEN
Jack Butler, Steelers defensive back
December 13th: The Redskins have played outstanding football down the stretch, and a win today would give them second place in the eastern division. Pittsburgh always plays the 'Skins tough and today right cornerback Jack Butler is the difference in the 14-13 battle. Jack ties the league mark with 4 interceptions, and he returns them 86 yards. His longest return of 36 has never been corrected in league manuals, and his 5-yard touchdown return in the 4th quarter is the winning touchdown.

Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown—Historic Trades?

PERSPECTIVE
By John Turney
Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown were traded this week to the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders respectively.

Beckham was traded for a #1 (No. 17 overall), a #3 (95) and Jabrill Peppers. Brown's bounty was a third-round pick (66) and fifth-round pick (141).
Brown had the baggage of a high cap number making trades different than in times past and he's older than Beckham. Brown is a four-time First-team All-Pro and a seven-time Pro Bowler, Beckham a two-time Second-team All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler but has some physical characteristics Brown (and few receivers) have.

Regardless, these are two of the top 5-7 wide receivers in the NFL in our view and to be moved is not common. But, here are a few comparisons of some receivers traded while still in their prime—

In 1970 All-Pro and future Hall of Famer Paul Warfield was traded from the Browns to Miami for a 1st round pick (the 3rd overall). The Browns coveted Mike Phipps and knew the best way to get him was to trade Warfield. Warfield was 28 at the time and had been All-Pro three times in his six seasons with Cleveland.
In 2005 the Vikings had grown weary of Randy Moss's act and traded him to the Raiders for linebacker Napoleon Harris and a first-round pick (#7th overall) and 2005 seventh round pick (#219). Neither side won, the first-round pick (Troy Williamson) was nowhere near Moss's ability and production and the others contributed little. Moss was traded from the Raiders in 2007 to the Patriots where he came alive again, but that did nothing for the Raiders.
Terrell Owens, in 2004, was traded to the Ravens for a couple of weeks (and a 2nd round pick) but in an odd situation Owens voided the deal and as SB Nation put it, "In a complicated three-way trade, Owens wound up with the Eagles, which gave him a seven-year, $49 million contract."
James Lofton's production slipped a little in 1986 but was still just 31 years old and still a feared wide receiver in the NFL. Al Davis knew he wanted Lofton's speed and height and gave the Packers a 3rd round pick and a 4th round pick (#71 and #88) for him.
In 1973 the Rams traded for John Hadl and still had Roman Gabriel on the roster. Gabriel was not pleased and demanded a trade. Somehow the Rams were able to get two first rounders (both turned out to be #11 overall) and a 3rd rounder plus Tony Baker (a fine short yardage back) and All-Pro wide receiver Harold Jackson who led the NFL in catches and receiving yardage in 1972. This one wasn't really a case of trading a wide receiver as a hijacking. Gabriel did play well for a year and a half for the Eagles, but the Rams got five years of Pro Bowls from Jackson plus the picks.
In October 2008, the Lions traded Roy Williams and a 7th rounder to Dallas for 1st, 3rd and 6th rounders (#20, 82, 192).

In October 2009 the Browns sent Braylon Edwards to the Jets for two players and a 2010 second or third round pick (conditional) which turned out to be the #92 overall and a 2010 fifth round pick (#160). Edwards was a year removed from a 16-TD season in 2007 and his production was declining.
On October 22, 2018, the Cowboys sent a first-round pick to the tanking Raiders for Amari Cooper.

So, some worked out okay, others not so much, but that is always the case for trades. If people knew the future it would be a lot easier. So, while some of these were dumps of wide receivers who were disgruntled (Moss, Brown, Beckham, etc) some were using their capital to get a quarterback (Jackson, Warfield) and some were desperation moves to get a solid number one receiver (Williams, Cooper, Edwards) the way we see it few performed better after their trade than before it.

So, as always, time will tell.

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)