Matt Leinart knew there was a reason he chose to stay in Houston this offseason, passing up a chance to reunite with his college coach, Pete Carroll, in Seattle.
"I would have been the third quarterback behind Tarvaris (Jackson) and Charlie Whitehurst learning a brand-new offense," Leinart told NFL Network's Rich Eisen this week on Eisen's podcast. "I'm blessed that I was able to sign with Houston last year. ... this is an offense that is more suited to my skill set, more similar to what we ran at USC."
Leinart will be in the spotlight this Sunday when Houston visits Jacksonville. With starter Matt Schaub sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury, the 7-3 Texans are counting on Leinart to steer their playoff hopes. It's the chance he's been waiting for.
"I've really just kind of put my head down and just worked my tail off," Leinart said. "I haven't said anything, I've always been positive. I've kind of taken my lumps and my hits and just continued to work hard hoping one day I would get an opportunity to show that I can be a starter in this league. That's all I've wanted and now the time has come for me to show that."
The lumps and hits mostly came in Arizona, where the former Heisman Trophy winner washed out after being drafted 10th overall in 2006. He struggled with injuries and mediocre play before losing the starting job to Kurt Warner, who wound up leading the Cardinals to the Super Bowl after the 2008 season.
"It just wasn't a good fit," Leinart said about his departure from the Cardinals. "A lot of things happened. Getting hurt my second year, Kurt (Warner) taking over and kind of reviving his career and putting up Hall of Fame numbers. I don't want to say I kind of got lost in the mix, but he revived his career and I battled with him for two or three training camps. I worked my butt off, I prepared, and they thought I wasn't the right fit for them and it was time to move on."
Leinart said he doesn't expect the Texans offense to change much with him at the helm.
"Obviously, I'm left-handed, (but) I think the offense is going to stay the same and we're going to run our stuff. We have a great running game and that just sets up our play-action and our naked stuff."
The return of star receiver Andre Johnson this Sunday from a hamstring injury gives Leinart even more comfort.
"He's going to be ready and I know he's chompin' at the bit to get out there."