He said it was unfair to lay the blame on recycled players who had been recruited to the club to play a role.
Hardwick said the media emphasis on that element of Richmond's recruiting had been overplayed.
The coach admitted it was his responsibility to get the best out of the club's better players and he had failed to do that in 2014.
"The reality is our best players haven't played to the standard that is required of them," Harwick said. "First and foremost that is my responsibility to get the best out of those players."
Richmond sits 16th with just three wins in 13 games after making the finals in 2013.
Of its top 10 players in the best and fairest in 2013, only Dustin Martin, who was runner-up, perhaps Trent Cotchin, who finished fifth and Alex Rance (sixth) have maintained the same standard.
Daniel Jackson has been injured while Brett Deledio had an injury interrupted start to the season.
Hardwick said the club was continuing to assess its list but remains guarded about the direction the club will take. He said the team had clearly underperformed but the list was more capable than it had shown this season.
"It's a bit like climbing Everest. You go up one base camp you come down to the next and you have to go back up again. This [year] is a speed hump. We probably expected one at some stage. We're disappointed with the extent of it this year," Hardwick said.
It faces bottom-of-the-ladder St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Saturday in Martin's 100th game. The Saints have won 10 of the past 11 encounters between the two clubs at Etihad Stadium.
Jackson and Chris Newman will be available for selection but Hardwick won't be tempted to play young players unless their form demands him to select them.
He admitted he had been surprised with the impact Anthony Miles has been able to have in the past few weeks. Richmond's ability to win contested ball in the midfield has improved since he came into the team and Hardwick indicated Miles had proved a find.
"He's just one of those guys that gets it done at every level," Hardwick said. "It's a real credit to him."
Hardwick said the club had not used the ball as directly as it would have liked against the Sydney Swans. He said that issue had been discussed this week and the Tigers planned to move the ball forward with more consistency.