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The Forgotten 49ers Great Who Deserves To Have His Number Retired

Levin T. Black
Aug 11, 2021 at 12:26 PM--

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What if I told you there is a player who dominated for the San Francisco 49ers that time has all but forgotten? This man is not a household name even amongst 49ers fans yet 40 years after his retirement he is still the franchise leader in one of the most glorified statistics. The man's name is Cedrick Hardman and he played for the 49ers every single year of the 1970s.

It's excusable if you don't recognize the name. I will admit to not recognizing it myself when I first saw it. I'm in my 30s so my fanhood began in the 1990s. I wish I had known of him before because, as this article will hopefully show, he should be remembered right along with the John Brodies, Joe Perrys and the other greats from before the Super Bowl winning teams of the 1980s.

How has time forgotten him if he was so good? The real question is why and the answer is simple. The statistic that would have made him famous didn't exist during his playing career. The NFL didn't start tracking sacks until 1982. Hardman retired in 1981. Until recently, no one knew how many sacks those who came before 1982 really had. Pro Football Reference took on the exhaustive effort of figuring that out, however. It published the results last month.

Over at you can now see sacks going back an extra 22 years to 1960. The numbers are technically unofficial as the NFL doesn't recognize them but coming from Pro Football Reference, they are trustworthy. The updated numbers made headlines prior to training camps beginning but only a few players got the spotlight when it happened. A lot of national media remarked on how the Hall of Fame player Deacon Jones is now 3rd on the all-time list with 173.5 sacks, for instance.

One player who didn't get any real attention when the new numbers were published in July but the 49ers should consider giving the spotlight now is Hardman. He was drafted in the 1st round by the 49ers in 1970 and played 10 seasons for the team before finishing his career with two years on the Oakland Raiders.

Like the 49ers' current Nick Bosa, Hardman was ready for the NFL right away. As a rookie he had 8.5 sacks. He then made the first of two career Pro Bowls in his second season when he led the NFL with 18 sacks. This single season total is still second-best in team history.

Hardman wasn't done either. He would have five more double-digit sack seasons for the 49ers. Six seasons of double-digit sacks is two more than any other player in 49ers history.

As you might suspect at this point, all those great seasons give Hardman the most sacks for the 49ers in team history. He had 108 total sacks in the 10 seasons he played for the 49ers. For the math challenged readers, this means he AVERAGED a double-digit sack season. That's remarkable.

Hardman's 108 sacks are nearly 20 more than any other player in 49ers history. Bryant Young is second with 89.5. Hardman finished his career with 122.5 total sacks when including his total from the Raiders. This would have placed him inside the top 10 all-time when he retired. It is 28th all-time on the new unofficial list.

Unfortunately, Hardman died in 2019 at the age of 70 so it is too late for the 49ers to honor the man while he still lives. A posthumous recognition should be done by the team. This is a player who, had the sack statistic already existed, would have never been forgotten and maybe even gotten into the Hall of Fame.

He has the most sacks in team history and the most seasons of high-end production. Does that not deserve recognition? Should his No. 86 get consideration for being retired? I vote yes. He is the measuring stick Bosa should be getting compared to.

At the very least, maybe this article, and those of you who share it, can make the forgotten great a known entity amongst the fans again.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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