The most common debate among Packers fans is whether Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers is the greatest Green Bay Packers quarterback. Sure, maybe there is some talk of Bart Starr. People have even talked about this trio as the three Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The mistake is thinking Rodgers is likely the third Packers Hall of Fame quarterback when the fact is that honor belongs to Favre. Arnie Herber was the first Packers quarterback to reach the Hall of Fame. Herber was elected to the fourth class in Pro Football Hall of Fame history.
Arnie Herber: The Green Bay Packers First Hall of Fame Quarterback
Arnie Herber’s Beginnings
Herber was a local Green Bay child. He actually grew up a Packers fan, selling programs at games so as to watch the team play. This must have started at an early age as Herber was just nine years old when the Packers took their current form. He was a high school star at Green Bay. After high school, he spent a freshman year on the University of Wisconsin team. He then spent his sophomore season playing for Regis University in Denver. When Regis dropped football the following year, Herber returned to Green Bay.
Herber’s professional career began with a tryout. While working as a handyman, Herber attracted Curly Lambeau‘s attention. Lambeau gave Herber his chance and Herber earned playing time. Herber played for the Packers from 1930 until 1940. He also played for the Giants from 1944 through 1946. He came out of retirement to play as many young men were serving in World War II.
By The Numbers
The numbers look small now. The changing nature of the NFL does not do justice to Herber’s career. In a nearly unthinkable fact, the NFL did not even keep official statistics during the first two years of his career. In 2016, Drew Brees led the NFL with 673 passing attempts. Also, 39 different quarterbacks completed 133 or more passes. That would include such players as Bryce Petty and Cody Kessler. Herber never attempted 133 passes in any season. It was a new era for football. It was only in 1906 that President Teddy Roosevelt moved to make the forward pass legal in football, in football’s first players’ safety crisis. People did not did the passing game the central role it has today.
In 11 seasons (where the NFL kept stats at least), Herber threw for over 100 passes seven times. In this time, he led the NFL in pass attempts and yards three times (1932, 1934 and 1936). Between 1932 and 1939, Herber finished top four in passing yards seven times. In his full 11-year career, he finished top ten in touchdown passes ten times and top five nine times. Arnie Herber’s 81 career touchdowns were third in NFL history at the time of his final game.
Father of the Game
Herber was there at the beginning. The Packers were instrumental in the development of the passing game of the NFL. He was not just a passer, he was the premier long ball threat of his day. The tandem of Arnie Herber and Don Hutson created one of the greatest passing threats ever. Herber walked onto a great Packers team and helped them finish the first three-peat in NFL history with titles in 1930 and 1931. Herber finished his career with four championships. He led the team through championship seasons in 1936 and 1939.
This puts the current ring count at Bart Starr with five, Arnie Herber with four and then Favre and Rodgers with one each. Titles are not the be all end all. Favre managed to lead the NFL in yards just twice, but did finish top five in 12 of his 16 seasons. Similarly, he had 12 seasons in the top five for touchdowns. Favre led the NFL four times. This means Herber led the league 27.2 percent of his seasons as Favre similarly led in 25 percent of his. Herber was a pioneer. His name should not be forgotten. He is a local fan, who took a tryout and turned it into a Hall of Fame career.