Five questions facing the San Francisco 49ers this offseason

Blaine Gabbert did well enough in his eight games as the 49ers starter to get a chance to audition for the role next season. Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers finished the regular season with a record of 5-11 after a 19-16 overtime victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. Here are the five questions facing the 49ers this offseason:

Should the Niners fire coach Jim Tomsula? Reports have been flying all day that Tomsula was about to be sacrificed by CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke as a one-and-done head coach. If you were going to make a decision based solely on results and how the team regressed the second half of the season, then sure. But with this depleted roster, I’m not sure Knute Rockne, Vince Lombardi or even, gulp, Jim Harbaugh could have coached more victories out of this ragtag outfit. Besides, York exhorted Tomsula as a teacher and a mentor when hiring him out of the blue in January. If Tomsula is sacrificed, how does the brass spin it?

Should Blaine Gabbert be the starting quarterback? Again, it depends upon whether Tomsula & Co. are retained, because if someone like Chip Kelly were to come to Santa Clara, then maybe he would want Colin Kaepernick and his unique skill-set to run his, ahem, unique offense. In any event, Gabbert played better in his eight games than Kaepernick did in his eight starts and deserves to at least be in the conversation for the Niners' starting job in 2016. Yes, the bar was set extremely low when Gabbert took over and his performance in Jacksonville set the bar lower, but he showed he can at least be a good “bridge” quarterback to the next franchise QB.

What position should be the Niners’ top priority in the draft? Did you not pick up what I was throwing down earlier? Baalke has not drafted a quarterback since taking Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 draft and well, it’s time -- especially if California’s Jared Goff is still available when it comes time for the Niners to pick. Yes, I know it was “only” Air Force that Goff picked apart in the Armed Forces Bowl and he is a junior, but the Niners making up for passing on another Cal product 11 years earlier -- Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers -- is too delicious a storyline to ignore. Plus, the Niners need a new franchise QB, right?

Why does Baalke seem so immune to in-house criticism? This is bizarre, considering that the bereft-of-elite talent Niners roster was cobbled together by the GM. Just look at his 2012 draft. (Or avert your eyes.) Not a single 2012 pick remains on the team. And his top four-round picks since then have all been borderline busts, save for Eric Reid and Carlos Hyde -- when he’s on the field. Baalke’s free-agent class to go with Tomsula’s first team is just as unsightly: Reggie Bush, Shareece Wright and Torrey Smith, who said his year has been “terrible” by his own standards. In this corner, Baalke’s seat should be hotter than Tomsula’s, unless, of course, this whole Tomsula hiring was York’s idea in the first place.

If Tomsula is indeed fired, who could be considered to replace him? Assuming Baalke survives, which we do assume, let’s look at his coaching tree, so to speak. It takes us straight to ... New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, another Bill Parcells disciple. Of course, Payton is still under contract, so there would have to be some compensation sent to the Big Easy to land Payton, and Baalke loves his draft picks. Other names to chew on: Stanford coach David Shaw, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who was purportedly Baalke’s top choice last January, and old-school guys Mike Holmgren and Mike Shanahan. And for kicks and giggles, let’s throw in Kyle Shanahan and Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Who catches your fancy?