(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

“We’re a family,” Fred Smoot said near the end of Steve Spurrier’s second season. “Families go through bad times and good times. Once the good times get to rolling, they never seem to stop.”

“You can feel it with the guys in the room,” Kellen Clemens once told me, before the Rex Grossman-John Beck 2011 campaign began. “You can feel it at meetings, practice, the way the guys work, the way the guys care for one another. Yeah, I think everybody believes that there’s something special with this group of guys.”

“This team, based on what Donovan says, this is a close-knit group of guys,” Donovan McNabb’s agent said after he signed his contract extension in Washington. “They really play for each other, they showed up big for him in that first game against the Eagles. I think he just really likes the locker room.”

The point is, sunny quotes about team chemistry should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Still, Chris Cooley says this year’s cliches go beyond that, and Larry Michael agrees.

“Let me ask you this, because I have a feeling about this group of guys,” Cooley said to Michael on ESPN 980 this week. (Audio here.) “You see these people every day. You’ve seen this team every day for a long time. Is this the best group of guys you’ve been around? Are they the best group of friends, teammates? Is it real when you talk about family? Because sometimes when I was here, it seemed cliché to call the team a family.”

“Well, I’ll just be very honest with you,” the team’s radio voice replied. “Over the years, you get close to a lot of guys if you go to work in the same building every day. That’s how I got to know you. Been through many difference phases with you, in both of our lives. A guy like Portis, good guy. Going back to Sean Taylor, going all the way back to Mark Brunell being here, and the great offensive line, all good buddies, Randy Thomas and Chris Samuels.

“But there was always a few guys on the team who maybe you didn’t get along with as well, maybe you felt they were extremely about them,” Michael continued. “And that’s not the case here now. I think Mike Shanahan’s done a great job making this his team, putting his stamp on it. And I think you are right. You go through that locker room right now, I would use a word you can’t use on the air, it’s blank-head, and there’s no blank-heads on this team, if you know what I man. And in the past — even in your days — there was probably a couple guys that you didn’t really get along with. A guy who might have been one of those type of guys might have changed their tone and realized that this is the way you win.”

(Via @tomcblock)