His knowledge of the sport. His ability to relate to, teach, and coach players. A shared vision of offense.
Each was chief among the reasons that prompted former safeties coach Chuck Martin's promotion to offensive coordinator for Brian Kelly's 2012 Irish. Each has been paramount in the team's 4-0 start; each present during three consecutive games of intermittent struggles.
Along with Kelly, the affable Martin has helped Notre Dame's offense -- notably, its quarterback -- through both good and bad as the defense performed most of September's heavy lifting.
The pair has had plenty of answers, but a month of undefeated football includes some lingering questions. Such as the overall direction of offense's most important position.
"If you have a crystal ball and can tell me, that would be awesome," said Martin when asked about the team's quarterback situation. "We're all just trying to figure out a way to beat Miami.
"To plan for the future…I believe we have four good quarterbacks but only one can play at a time. I wouldn't have predicted the first four games would go this way. We played two different quarterbacks in every game and we're 4-0. We'll see what happens against Miami and we'll move forward from there."
Fans are fine with 4-0, and nothing makes a player happier than the spoils of victory without defeat. But what about the confidence level and reassurance of a redshirt-freshman quarterback heading into the season's final two months -- months in which the Irish must prove their early-season contention is legitimate.
"The kid has started four straight games to begin his career. You have to take some solace in that if you're Everett Golson," said Martin. "There are three other talented kids and you've got the nod all four games.
"The second thing is keep accentuating all the good things he's done. He's played a lot of snaps and done a lot of good things. We said from day one, 'You're not going to be a great quarterback as a freshman. You won't be great all the time.' Great in spurts, great in a period of plays, or even great in a whole game…but there's so many new experiences for him and we've sold him that on day one.
"There's things we prepare for every week, but there's always going to be new wrinkles (opponents) put in a game plan, and for (a veteran) guy that's played a bunch, he's probably seen (the wrinkles) and he can go back to Purdue two years ago (for example). But for a kid in his first start, every time someone throws something different at him its still a learning experience.
"That's how we approached it, "You're learning, you're getting better all the time,' but it still on him to keep his head up when he has frustrating moments. We can pat him on the back and tell him its part of the learning process at any position, it just tougher at his position.
"He has to take it upon himself to (realize), 'I'm getting better. It's learning under fire here and I have a lot of playing days in front of me.'"
More Art than Science
Part of that process has been time spent on the sidelines in favor of veteran Tommy Rees. The first instance due to a simple call from the bullpen (Kelly and Martin believed Rees was better suited to help the Irish win on a one-shot drive vs. Purdue) the second against Michigan, a garden-variety "benching." Golson was playing poorly, the staff turned to Rees and the Irish, as a team, if not offense that managed all of 13 points, again prevailed.
"Its just the flow of the game and the situation, and what (about) the situation dictates what gives us the best chance," said Martin of both decisions. "You're still just making an educated guess. We brought Tommy in (vs. Purdue) and we looked pretty good when he went down and scored. It's more of a feel.
"It's also the feel of having a young quarterback and how he's doing in that moment in time. He could make a mistake and understand immediately, 'Yeah, I saw it, I screwed up.' Or it could be more of a mistake based a little bit on being confused. If its based more on confusion you're more apt to get someone out there that might be less confused.
"Its just based on the flow and what they're doing, and the game score, and how our defense is playing. There's all these factors of managing a football game which we're really trying to do a good job of, because we felt like in the past we didn't always manage the game as well as we could have based on the circumstances."
Kelly's feel has been in lockstep with Martin's to date.
"The nice thing so far is we've been going kind of the same direction. Seeing the same things and feeling the flow the same way," Martin said.
For the Irish offense, it feels like plenty of work remains, but that feels fine at 4-0.