In a few minutes, he would be leaving for a Hula Bowl practice. Outside his hotel room, the sun was lighting up the Honolulu sky. Bobby Beathard laughed.

"Yeah, I know it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it," he said yesterday, 5,000 miles from the playoff excitement surrounding Redskin Park.

Beathard, the Redskins' general manager since February 1978, characteristically plays down the importance of his job. "General manager's work," he'll say while pouring a cup of coffee or wrapping Christmas presents in his office.

But this team, two games away from going to the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade, is Beathard's creation. The Redskins have been almost completely remade in the five years since George Allen left.

The Redskins are a product of Beathard's deeply held convictions about his ability to judge players and mold a team. Two years ago, those convictions led him to put his job, and possibly his pro football future, in the hands of owner Jack Kent Cooke.

Unable to coexist peacefully with Coach Jack Pardee and convinced his talents as a scout were being wasted, Beathard forced Cooke to make a choice. That Cooke selected Beathard now seems a master stroke, especially since he immediately rewarded the owner's faith by recruiting Joe Gibbs to fill the vacant head coaching job.

Beathard's ability to sell Gibbs, a little-known, longtime assistant, to an owner more apt to hire big-name coaches is the obvious major achievement of his tenure. But his personnel selections should not be overlooked.

There are eight teams left in the NFL playoffs. Seven have been constructed by the conventional method: through the draft. Only the Redskins have used a different approach.

Stripped of draft choices by Allen's wheeling and dealing, Beathard had only two options left: he had to trade and he had to sign free agents unwanted by other teams.

"We really didn't have many ways we could go," Beathard said. "We've spent most of the time here scrounging for players."

He has made 40 trades in five years, bringing in veteran players such as Joe Washington, Pro Bowl safety Tony Peters and cornerback Jeris White, and draft choices used to pick Russ Grimm, Dexter Manley, Vernon Dean and Mark May.

His scouting staff signed such obscure free agents as tackle Joe Jacoby, tight end Rick Walker, middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz, center Jeff Bostic, receiver Alvin Garrett and guard Fred Dean, all of whom start. He outbid other teams for ex-Canadian star Mike Nelms.

The Redskins' talent pool still seems shallow when compared to the other three remaining NFC playoff teams. On its 49-man active roster, the Redskins have 15 players who were drafted, eight who were obtained in trades and 26 free agents. Dallas has 35 drafted players, one obtained in a trade and 13 free agents. Minnesota's numbers are 35, 3 and 11; Green Bay's 30, 3 and 16.

Of the 53 Washington players who have been active this season and still remain under contract, 44 have been signed by Beathard. He took a nucleus left by Allen (Joe Theismann, John Riggins, Mark Moseley, George Starke, Dave Butz, Mark Murphy) and surrounded it with young, quick, strong athletes. Allen's last team had 20 players who were 29 years or older and three who had been drafted since 1971; this team has 12 who are 29 or older and 21 with two or fewer years experience.

Does the Redskins' success this season justify his actions two years ago?

"It is satisfying," Beathard said. "It just strengthens my beliefs. I didn't like how the young players were being received then. I didn't think we were heading in the right direction. The atmosphere wasn't right."

That atmosphere has changed greatly at Redskin Park. Beathard is much more comfortable with this staff and with Gibbs, who was only a nodding acquaintance before being hired as coach. The two men argue vehemently at times over personnel decisions, but Gibbs says, "Once the argument is decided, that's it. There is no carryover. If you can't get along with Bobby Beathard, you can't get along with anyone."

Beathard is far less visible these days. He is making fewer trades, focusing even greater attention on future drafts, in which the Redskins have most of their major picks. But his last flurry of deals made this team into a playoff contender.

In April 1981, he finished two trades with the Los Angeles Rams. First, he swapped 1981 first-round choices in exchange for the Rams' No. 2 and 4 selections. Then he gave up his 1982 No. 1 for a 1981 No. 3 and two No. 5s and a 1982 No. 2.

If he hadn't made those transactions, the Redskins likely would have used their No. 1s to take tackle Keith Van Horne and receiver Perry Tuttle. With the trades, they got: in 1981, No. 1, May; No. 2 traded to Baltimore for Joe Washington; No. 3, Grimm, their best offensive lineman; No. 4, quarterback Tom Flick, later traded to New England for Tom Owen; No. 5, Manley, their best pass rusher; and, in 1982, No. 2, Dean, one of the league's best rookies.

In that 1981 draft, which Charley Casserly, the Redskins assistant general manager, says "is one of the best any team has had in years," Beathard also chose linebacker Larry Kubin (No. 6), receiver Charlie Brown (No. 8), defensive tackle Darryl Grant (No. 9) and tight end Clint Didier (No. 12).

"That draft accelerated our program," Beathard said. "It put us over the threshold. It gave us a foundation to build on for years to come."

Beathard has made mistakes. Receiver Carl Powell, this year's No. 3 choice, was cut in training camp, a move Gibbs said "established credibility with our players. If we kept Powell because he was a high-round pick, how could we tell the players that we make decisions on talent alone?"

But Beathard also has made some outstanding selections. He thought Grimm was a No. 1 choice when scouting combines wondered if he could ever start in the pros. And he saw the gifted Manley as a lineman when others thought he would be a so-so linebacker.

"One thing everyone in the league will tell you about Bobby," said Gibbs, "is once he makes up his mind about a player, he won't change it. He has a deep faith in his abilities. He plays hunches, and he's normally right."