Notre Dame football: Martin used to the pressure
SOUTH BEND -- There's pressure. And there's win-or-go-home pressure.
Chuck Martin can quantify the difference.
In six of his nine years as an assistant, and then head football coach at Grand Valley State University, Martin had his team in the Division II national championship game. The other three seasons weren't slouches, advancing at least a couple rounds in the postseason playoffs.
Every season, while he had a hand in making sure the big picture was functioning properly, Martin had on his shoulders the burden of calling either the offensive or defensive plays.
That's why he's not particularly panicked about taking over those similar duties this season, while serving as offensive coordinator at Notre Dame.
A stadium filled with more than 80,000 people? So what? A national television audience ready to second-guess his every decision? No biggie.
Never had that sort of attention in Allendale, Mich.
"I've called a lot of plays for a lot of years — offense and defense," said Martin, in his fourth year on the Irish staff, second as offensive coordinator and first as the guy with the main headset. "The nice thing for me is ... I've called a lot of plays in playoff games. The anxiety of win-or-go-home is different than ... you know.
"I get it, at Notre Dame there's a lot at stake and all that, but in win-or-go-home there's a lot at stake, too. I don't have a lot of anxiety calling plays. I did at one time in my life."
How'd he get over it?
"You call them in a game, in big moments. You wake up in the morning: 'If we don't get it done today, our season's over,'" Martin said. "I coached in all those dang playoff games and the pressure there is unbelievably more than the regular season.
"You can say it's not the same (as a main stage like Notre Dame). But you wake up in the morning, you've got a knot in your throat: 'We have a bad day today guys, you can turn your stuff in on Monday.'
"We were fortunate that we played in a crazy amount of playoff games over a nine-year period. I called plays in win-or-go-home games for nine straight years. There was a lot on the line if you make the wrong call at the wrong time. Your season ends. That (stinks)."
Staff continuity and Kelly's unique relationship with Martin made for an ideal time for the Irish head coach to take those game-day chores off his own plate. During his first three years as boss, Kelly made the decisions. He will still have veto power, but for the most part, the two subscribe to a similar philosophy.
Of course, they haven't really worked on the logistics just yet.
"In practice, we always are designed," Martin said about the script the offense runs in workouts. "You don't really get practice at calling plays."
Still, given Martin's temperament and his understanding of the game and how Kelly's philosophy fits, it's bound to be a success.
Martin's ho-hum reaction to the rigors of the fast-paced skill of calling plays — while the confusion of the game makes it a challenge — is polar opposite to the panic of Jim Colletto, Notre Dame's offensive coordinator in the late '90s.
Remember when Colletto said he wasn't able to watch the game because he was too consumed with calling the plays? That was one of those "oops" moments that limited his time at Notre Dame to just two seasons.
Martin doesn't seem the least bit flustered — for now.
We'll see how it goes next Saturday.