Herber was born in Green Bay, Wis. and was a Packers fan from a young age, all while starring at local Green Bay West High School in football and basketball. After attending college for a few years to no notoriety, Herber came back to Green Bay and worked in the club house as a handyman. Coach Curly Lambeau gave Herber a try-out and Herber joined a team that was currently dominating the NFL.
Green Bay had posted an undefeated 12-0-1 record and won the NFL title the year before Herber was on the roster. In his first year, 1930, the Packers continued their success and won another title with Herber playing tailback in the famous Notre Dame Box formation. In 1931, with Herber throwing more than usual for that era to early greats like John "Blood" McNally, the Packers reeled off nine straight wins to start the season and held on to win a third straight title. No other team in NFL history, besides the Packers themselves in the 1960s, has won three consecutive titles.
The NFL didn't start keeping statistics until 1932—when they did that year, Herber finished as the top passer in the league with 639 yards and nine touchdowns. He won the passing title again in 1933 with 799 yards and eight touchdowns. But Herber reached his peak as a pro starting in 1935 with the arrival of Don Hutson. Hutson, the league's first true wide receiver, changed the game with his graceful moves, precise patterns, and superb hands. Herber, who loved to throw the ball long, was a perfect fit for Hutson's talent. Hutson's first NFL reception was an 83-yard touchdown pass from Herber on the first play of the game when the Packers beat the Chicago Bears, 7-0. In 1936, Herber and Hutson rewrote (temporarily) the NFL passing-receiving record book. Herber tossed a record 177 passes for a record 1239 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Hutson set new records with 34 catches, 526 yards receiving, and eight touchdowns, all marks he would soon improve. Green Bay finished 10-1-1 and went to the NFL title game, which they won 21-6 over the Boston Redskins. In that game, Green Bay passed for 153 yards and Herber threw two touchdowns, one to Hutson.
Sharing time with another great passer, Cecil Isbell, Herber led the Packers to the title game again in 1938 and 1939. In the 1938 championship, Green Bay lost to the New York Giants 23-17 despite another touchdown pass from Herber. In 1939, Green Bay avenged that loss with a 27-0 drubbing of the Giants. Herber threw for another touchdown in the 1939 title game. In 1940, Isbell began to get more playing time than Arnie, so Herber retired after 11 seasons with Green Bay.
Herber came back to the draft-depleted NFL in 1944, answering a call to play for the New York Giants. Herber threw sparingly but efficiently, for 651 yards and six touchdowns. As usual for Herber-led teams, the Giants won their conference and went to the title game. Herber's old squad, the Packers, still featuring Don Hutson, beat the Giants 14-7. Herber played one more forgettable season with the Giants and then retired for good.
Overall, Herber passed for 8,041 yards, 81 touchdowns, and 106 interceptions. He led his teams to four NFL championships. At the time Herber retired for the first time in 1940, he had equaled Benny Friedman for the all-time lead in touchdown passes with 66. He added to his total later when he came out of retirement for a two year stint with the New York Giants.
Herber was the first great long thrower in the NFL and his success paved the way for truly "modern" quarterbacks Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman. Herber was said to throw the ball with all five fingers on the laces, a peculiarity shared by no one else. It was his performance with Don Hutson, however, that made him a legend and assured his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.