In the back of the bar, a juke box can be heard over the television. The bartender moves mechanically, sweeping away coasters and wiping the counter in one smooth, practiced motion. Three men enter in conversation: Don Weadon, Tom McBirnie and Bob Satterford. They need little prodding to turn their attention to the Redskins, the horse they've been flogging for a month now:

"The Redskins are hopelessly inept. There's got to be a coaching problem."

"Oh, they have a coach? I was wondering about that."

"Aw, he'll be a good coach in the long run."

"It would be a mistake if they dumped (Joe) Theismann and went to (Tom) Flick. The worst thing you can do is overreact to the situation. To roll a bunch of heads would be counterproductive."

"The Redskins are very much like the Reagan administration. They're trying to look back to the good old days, when things were simple and you could pass the ball."

"Can you identify the Jim Watt of the Redskin administration? Would you equate Bobby Beathard with (White House personnel director) Pen James?"

Like the three guys in the Adams Morgan nightspot Millie and Al's, barstool critics across town have taken to playing Washington's popular new parlor game: Rap the Redskins, or Why Can't a Professional Football Team Win a Professional Football Game?

Many Redskin fans, accustomed to Cowboy showdowns, Over the Hill Heroes and playoff appearances, now view the team with resignation and ridicule.

And when the fans analyze the Redskins, they look to the most visible quarters: Coach Joe Gibbs and quarterback Joe Theismann.

"Joe and Joe -- they must go," says Phil Panitch, a market researcher, debating the Redskins' fate while drinking with friends at the Hawk 'n' Dove bar on Capitol Hill.

"All Theismann can do is talk and talk and talk," says Gene Horne, a Metro employe. "I read he's a great person to interview. Why not? You can ask the guy one question, and he'll tell you about his life, his wife, his career and his kids. He just doesn't think beyond himself."

"I think Joe Theismann has slowed up. He just doesn't seem to have the movement, the enthusiasm anymore," says Al Shapiro, proprietor of Millie and Al's. "He seems to be too worried about TV, his restaurant and his other interests."

"Joe Theismann's real future is in camera commercials. All he can do is talk, talk, talk," agrees Ray Benning, an aide to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

In Theismann's defense, Laura Wood, a Department of Education employee, contends, "What about the defense? Joe Theismann isn't responsible for everything. Let's give credit where credit's due. Theismann might throw the ball away to the other team, but then the Redskins let them score."

Like Mr. Smith when he came to Washington, Gibbs is discovering that the natives turn ugly on a whim, and that power in Washington disappears as quickly as blank checks at a political fundraiser. Less than halfway into his first season, Gibbs has been the prime subject on sports talk shows and in bar rooms, in pool halls and in diners.

"Do I think he's had a chance? Sure, he's had five weeks." says Panitch.

"With Gibbs, it kind of reminds me of when Otto Graham coached here, except that (Sonny) Jurgensen's a lot better than Theismann," says Pat Snider, a systems analyst from Rosslyn. "The Redskins are the worst team in the league. They can't run, they can't kick, they can't coach; I don't think they can count."

The barbs and wisecracks aren't limited to Theismann and Gibbs. At 0-5, there's plenty of blame to go around.

Once-loyal fans blame the entire Redskin organization, from owner Jack Kent Cooke and General Manager Bobby Beathard to the cheerleaders and ex-coaches. They even blame fellow fans.

"The problem with the Redskins is they're not in Philadelphia. When the Eagles were losing, at least people were still coming, even though they booed," says Richard Breyers, who works on Capitol Hill. "Here, the people just leave.

"I don't think the Redskins know what they're doing," Breyers continues. "The football team is run like the capital. Whatever public opinion says one week, they do. There's no direction."

Whatever direction the team ever had was credited to George Allen, still an oft-discussed figure in his fourth year of exile from Redskin Park. Redskin fans either regard him as the team's patron saint or its devil incarnate.

"I still have indigestion from George Allen," says Snider.

"The guy that destroyed the Redskins was George Allen," says John Shank, a customer at the Tune Inn on Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

At this point, with the Redskins losing every week, their fans say they expect little.

"Those guys won't win two games," Panitch says. "Neil Armstrong will walk on the moon again before the Redskins win two games. They've traded all their draft choices until 1990."

As most of sporting Washington watches Jack Kent Cooke's play toy wind down, speculation grows on what the 68-year old owner's next move will be from his Middleburg, Va., estate.

Says Don Weadon of Alexandria: "If I were him, I'd just get another beer and change the channel. He can afford it."