Callahan: Bill O’Brien’s honeymoon phase will be over soon — and that’s a good thing

Bill O’Brien just dropped his bags inside the front door.

Mac Jones is already upstairs unpacking his suitcase.

The Patriots’ wide receivers are actively planning the next vacation in the driveway, while the offensive linemen are last out of the car, still recovering from a trip-long hangover.

For all involved, the honeymoon is over.

On Sunday, the Patriots offense will be tested in a way it hasn’t since O’Brien re-tied the knot in late January. It’s been a lovely seven-plus months.

From the moment O’Brien stepped into the building, life has been a series of bouquets and blowing kisses.

“(O’Brien)’s awesome,” Pats tight end Mike Gesicki said Wednesday. “He’s been great since the day he got here.”

“I’ve been very happy with coach O’Brien,” Mac Jones said during training camp. “All of us have.”

As far as coaching changes, O’Brien represents one of the healthiest rebounds in recent NFL history. Once the Patriots moved on from the toxic Belichick-Patricia-Judge triumvirate of last year, all O’Brien had to do to score points was hold the door, say please and thank you and remember birthdays. He’s done more than that.

Mac Jones of the New England Patriots and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien share a laugh during training camp at Gillette Stadium on July 31. (Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

From team meetings to the practice field, O’Brien has breathed life into the Patriots offense again. There is a joy about his players, trust and belief; hallmarks of any healthy relationships which, by the way, were all missing last season.

“The coaches bring a lot of confidence in us,” tight end Hunter Henry said. “They do a great job of lifting us up.

But the thing is, for as wonderful as all that sounds, none of it matters.


O’Brien was re-hired to win games, not a popularity contest. The stress tests his offense endured in training camp and the preseason do not compare whatsoever to the regular-season rigors to come. What an NFL offense is, what it can become, is only known by walking through the fires of conniving defensive coordinators, head-hunting safeties and menacing pass rushers for 17 games.

What we know about the Patriots offense is the players believe in their new coach, one another and the system that binds them all together. That’s about it.

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