The best part of the offseason is the debating we do on this board. One subject that has been debated is how often Cam Newton should run with the football.
One school of thought says he should concentrate on being a pocket passer. Mike Shula should not call many called runs for Cam, but it's okay if he scrambles occasionally when a pass play breaks down and everyone is covered. This school of thought might be concerned that running plays increase the chance that Cam could be injured.
The other school of thought says Cam should run just as much (or maybe even more) than he has in his first two seasons. Immediately your mind goes to the read option (and you want to strangle things). But this isn't about the read option. Newton has proved that his most consistent running plays are the QB draw, the short-yardage QB power, and of course, the improvised third-and-long-there's-no-way-anyone-should-get-a-first-down-but-Cam-does-scramble. This school of thought doesn't worry as much about injury. Injuries happen everywhere. Cam is just as likely to get rolled up on when he's in the pocket. When he runs, for the most part, he is very comfortable and very much in control. He does a great job of getting what he can get and then getting down.
With these two viewpoints (there are more viewpoints, or, at least, people in between the two views) identified, how can we best evaluate what Cam's running does for the Carolina Panthers? It may be hard to believe, but what this story is really all about is statistical analysis... Stop laughing.
There are several ways you could evaluate the statistics. What I've chosen to do is to figure out how many carries and how many yards Newton averages in wins, and in losses (or, when the clock hits '0:00' and we have less points, if you prefer)...
In losses (19), Newton has run the ball 133 times for 757 yards. This breaks down to:
7.0 rushes per game
5.70 yards per rush
39.8 yards per game
In wins (13), Newton has run the ball 120 times for 690 yards. This breaks down to:
9.2 rushes per game
5.75 yards per rush
53.1 yards per game
So, when the Panthers win, Newton carries the ball an average of 2.2 more times. The yards per carry average is virtually the same (a twentieth of a yard difference), and of course with the increase in attempts during wins, the average yardage goes up by 13.3.
This is very basic stuff here, I'll admit. But in my mind it is a pure, non-adjusted way of determining how Cam's running contributes to victories or to losses.
You might say that the increase it attempts during wins comes when the Panthers are running out the clock, but does Newton really run with the ball late in the game during the 'four minute drill?' When the Panthers are churning up clock, most of the heavy lifting is done by our triumvirate of RBs.
Touchdowns were left out of the equation since a touchdown is worth points, which, in turn, contribute to wins. Plus, Cam may have scored the TD from a yard out, but that doesn't mean that another player couldn't have scored the TD just the same. I will leave you with one bit of information re: touchdowns, though. In 2012, the Panthers were 5-2 in games where Newton scored a rushing TD.
In conclusion: There is not an exact science that will tell us how much Newton should run with the football so the Panthers can give themselves the best chance at winning. But, this little bit of digging concludes that when the Panthers do win, Newton is running more.