Either way, Tebow has ditched his cap and clipboard and is now the starring attraction in Denver.
Coach John Fox made the switch official Tuesday, announcing Tebow will start against the Miami Dolphins when the Broncos return from their bye week.
He supplants Orton, who has struggled ever since winning the job with a spectacular training camp.
"Well, I think 1-4 has a lot to do with it," Fox said. "We haven't gotten it done as a football team. It's not one guy. It's not all Kyle Orton's fault. But we do have to make adjustments, we have to change and we have to do something to win football games."
Orton didn't carry over his sensational summer into the regular season, turning the ball over nine times and losing the organization's confidence and a string of winnable games as the Broncos stumbled to another bad start.
Fox had seen enough by halftime Sunday when he benched Orton and sent in Tebow. After a slow start, the former Florida star sparked a listless offense to within a last-gasp pass of coming back against San Diego.
As the Broncos trudged off the field, the stadium shook with a thunderous roar of "Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!"
Fox appreciates their passion but said the fans, who have been calling for Tebow ever louder by the week, had nothing to do with this move.
"It's not so much fan outcry as we're in a result-oriented business, and we're 1-4," Fox said. "It's not one guy. We'll see if this helps."
Tebow had his troubles -- rust, three fumbled snaps and six misfires in 10 pass attempts -- but he ran for a touchdown and threw for another while energizing the Broncos and fans frustrated by a franchise mired in mediocrity since its last winning season in 2005.
After thinking things over for a day and watching the game film, Fox decided to go all-in with Tebow.
It's time to see what he has in the popular and polarizing 24-year-old lefty, one of the most accomplished players in the history of college football but one whose skill set doesn't fit the mold of a prototypical pro passer.
"It's just a matter of him going out and doing the best he can," Broncos football chief John Elway told the NFL Network. "He adds that spark, he's got great intangibles, he's a great competitor and I think that this is going to be a growing process for him."
Fox informed Orton and Tebow of his decision privately before telling the team at their 8 a.m. meeting Tuesday.
"He's the coach. He makes the decisions," Orton said. "I'm the player, and I live with it."
Cornerback Andre' Goodman said in a subdued locker room that the players felt bad that Orton had to take the fall for the team's failures -- they rank 25th in the league in both offense and defense.
"At the end of the day, we're all disappointed for Kyle because it almost implicates him" as the reason for the 1-4 start, Goodman said. "It's not the case. It could've been me. It could've been anybody on this team. None of us are doing a good enough job."
There also was a twinge of excitement in the locker room over Tebow's promotion Tuesday.
"He's just a baller, an all-out baller," linebacker Joe Mays said. "Some people may call him unorthodox, but at the end of the day, he gets the job done."
The Broncos will have to adjust their offense for Tebow, but Fox downplayed the difficulty.
"Well, it's not like we signed him off the street," Fox said. "He's been in meetings the whole season."
The Broncos will have to determine if they want to continue pressing Tebow to become a prototypical pro passer or focus on capitalizing on skills that made him a great combination college quarterback -- some say the best ever.
Do they spend time on his mechanics and motion or add more shotgun snaps and designed runs to the game plan?
There's a list a football field long of running quarterbacks who didn't survive long in the NFL, yet Tebow brushes that off.
"Honestly, I've heard that a lot, heard that my whole life and I see a lot of good quarterbacks running the ball really effectively from Steve Young all the way down," Tebow said. "So, I'm going to try to do whatever they ask me to do and if that's hand the ball off, if that's drop back, if that's run around, I'll do whatever I can do to help this team win football games."
Tebow did show more patience in the pocket Sunday, progressing through his reads and buying some time. Still on his to-do list are little things like repeating his release point and keeping his palms together when he takes J.D. Walton's snaps from under center.
"That's something that we did in practice today and got a lot better at because before that game I'd probably taken a handful of snaps with him this year," Tebow said.
Hindering the Broncos and their new quarterback, however, is the new collective bargaining agreement that stipulates teams must give players four consecutive days off during the bye week. So, the Broncos will only get two practices totaling about four hours this week, then take a four-day furlough during which only injured players can come in, and then only to get treatment.
According to the CBA, during that four-day stretch, players cannot participate in club-supervised workouts or practices, meetings with coaches, film study with coaches or playbook study with coaches.
"Well, I don't think there's any rules against like watching film or throwing on my own or continuing to work on things," Tebow said with a smile. "So, I'll probably try to do that."
Wide receiver Eric Decker said he's willing to give up his vacation to work out the kinks with Tebow.
"If he wants you to come in and throw some routes and get that timing to win a football game, I'll do anything at this point," Decker said.
Despite a resume that includes All-America honors, two national championships and a Heisman Trophy, Tebow never came close to beating out Orton in the summer of 2010 or '11.
Yet, Orton turned ordinary when the games started to count.
His puzzling slide hit bottom Sunday when he went 6 for 13 for 34 yards in the first half against the Chargers and threw his seventh interception, tied for most in the league. He also has two fumbles.
"I'm disappointed with everything," said Orton, 6-21 since winning his first six games as Denver's starter. "I wish I could have played better, I wish we had a better record, I wish a lot of things, but the reality is what it is."
The Broncos tried to trade Orton, who's making $9 million in the final year of his contract, when the lockout ended, but talks with Miami broke down and Fox instead threw open the quarterback competition, something for which Tebow proved ill-prepared.
Orton maintained his stranglehold on the starting job during training camp and Brady Quinn also outperformed Tebow, who showed almost no progress in becoming the pocket passer that Elway has repeatedly said he must become to make it in this league.
His footwork was still flawed, his throws were still off-target, and he even had trouble with the most basic of football plays: the center-quarterback exchange, after spending most of his football career playing out of the shotgun.
He showed, however, that there was some validity to the notion he's a "gamer" by posting decent stats in preseason games.
Tebow, who received a $6 million-plus bonus in August, was used sparingly by the new coaching staff at first. He came in as a decoy in the slot when the Broncos ran out of receivers against Cincinnati in Week 2, and he took one snap, running for minus-2 yards at Green Bay two weeks ago.
Tebow started the final three games last season -- going 1-2 -- after Orton got hurt and the organization decided to see what they had in Tebow, whom former coach Josh McDaniels had selected with the 25th overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Now he gets another chance to show the new regime what he's got.
"We're 1-4, and we've got to move on," Fox said. "We're going to do whatever it takes to get out of that. Whether this works or not, time will tell."